Supporting Aboriginal & Torres Strait Communities

As the nation continues to evolve to better support our Australia's First Peoples, ESSA and the exercise and sports science community are working together in this space too.

“It’s important to ESSA that all Australian communities feel supported to take care of their health and well-being, and this includes our Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities,” says ESSA Chief Executive Officer, Anita Hobson-Powell.

“ESSA recognises the need to continue to bridge the long-standing disparities in health status that exist between Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples and the rest of the Australian population, through both our organisation and our professionals.”

What our exercise and sports science professionals are doing
Ray Kelly is a proud Kamilaroi man and an Accredited Exercise Physiologist with over 30 years’ experience in the health industry. Ray has worked tirelessly to empower Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities in remote communities and in metro regions across Australia to make lifestyle changes to improve their health. Ray also founded the Too Deadly for Diabetes program which is run through local Aboriginal Medical Service.

Ray’s passion to promote evidence-based practice in a culturally appropriate environment has been inspiring to his clients and his colleagues and was one of the reasons he received the illustrious Accredited Exercise Physiologist of the Year Award for 2019.

Dr Keane Wheeler, a proud Ngarabal man, was recognised as the Accredited Exercise Scientist of the Year for 2020 for his work in co-designing independent, influential, and Indigenous-led engagement initiatives for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children, families, and communities.

"Improving the health status of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples is important to me as it has been a long-standing challenge for Elders and community stakeholders.

Social determinants theory recognise that the health of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples is determined by many interconnected factors. One of the factors affecting Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples is the trauma caused by colonisation, which has led to high rates of alcohol and drug abuse, family violence, as well as child abuse and neglect in some communities. I want to use this awareness to help build the evidence relating to a trauma-informed co-design of movement-based programs for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children.

If I can help prepare Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children to get ready for school and develop prosocial behaviours, then we will go some ways to addressing the effects of colonisation. This will never take back the dispossession and dislocation of my mob or loss of identity. If we can design programs to better incorporate the physical, spiritual, cultural, emotional, and social well-being of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children, then we will help to build community capacity and self-determination.”

HEAL image by Amanda James
What ESSA is doing
ESSA continues to engage in meaningful dialogue with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people and address some of the inequities that exist. This can be as simple as understanding the health differences between the communities.

CEO of ESSA, Anita Hobson-Powell felt it was important to consult with our Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander members on determining what ESSA would use as the organisation’s acknowledgment of country.

ESSA is making concerned efforts to connect with our First Nation peoples more authentically in a variety of ways explains Zoe Bickerstaffe, ESSA Marketing & Communications Manager.

“One way is through ESSA working with contemporary Aboriginal artist, Letitia Barty, a proud Kamilaroi woman, to contribute to our branding from 2022 onwards. We are looking forward to sharing this artwork across all corporate branding – from application forms through to event signage.”

The story that Letitia is capturing is that of ESSA’s journey of encouraging and educating Australians to become active.

“The story behind it is that each complete circle represents a stage of life (childhood, adulthood and elderly) and the arch in the top left corner represents the sun as the days pass. The bush medicine leaves through the middle represent the movement through life for good health throughout each of these stages.”
There’s still a lot more work to be done

But ESSA is prepared to put in the work.

“Encouraging our Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities to remain active is vital. Improving physical activity levels presents a significant opportunity for health improvements and for reducing the health gap between First Australians and the wider community,” adds Anita.

Currently through our Exercise is Medicine® Australia website, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander specific fact sheets are available for coronary heart disease, kidney disease and type 2 diabetes, with plans for ESSA, EIM Australia and Exercise Right to provide further exercise-specific resources in 2022.

“As the accrediting body for exercise and sports science professionals, it’s important that we have a better understanding of our cultural ways of being and how this knowledge can be adapted to the way we provide sport, exercise and exercise physiology services.”

Supporting health through exercise for 30 years 

To celebrate 30 years of Exercise & Sports Science Australia (ESSA), we are reflecting on 30 stories which commemorate the profound impact the exercise and sports science industry and its professionals have had on our communities, and how they have benefited the health landscape in Australia.

Click here to read more like this one