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Healing Right Way - Enhancing Rehabilitation Services for Aboriginal Australians After Brain Injury

The Healing Right Way project will implement the first culturally secure intervention package for Aboriginal survivors of acquired brain injury in Western Australia (WA) and nationally. Aboriginal Australians experience stroke and traumatic brain injury (TBI) up to three times more frequently than non-Aboriginal Australians. Yet Aboriginal people remain under-represented in rehabilitation programs, and comprehensive outcome data is unavailable. The proposed project follows on from our team's Missing Voices study (NHMRC ID#1046228, 2013-2016) that was the first to investigate the extent and impact of acquired brain injury in Aboriginal people across Western Australia. Findings from Missing Voices suggest that significant changes in service delivery are both warranted and wanted by Aboriginal brain injury survivors, their families, and health service providers. This project is informed directly by the results of the Missing Voices project and incorporates principles proven to be effective in managing other chronic conditions in Aboriginal communities.

The research

The project aims to:

  • Improve delivery of rehabilitation services to Aboriginal people post-brain injury (stroke and traumatic brain injury)
  • Improve overall health outcomes for Aboriginal brain injury survivors
  • Conduct an economic evaluation to support the business case for funding new rehabilitation services, which will contribute to the planning and sustainability of future services if the intervention is determined to be cost-effective

The project will employ Aboriginal Brain Injury Coordinators to work with brain injury survivors and their families providing advocacy, education and service liaison during the person’s hospital stay and also after discharge.

Staff involved in brain injury care at the participating hospitals will participate in enhanced cultural security training focused on providing culturally secure care and rehabilitation to Aboriginal brain injury survivors and their families.

The acceptability of these interventions from the perspectives of the Aboriginal participants and of the health professionals will be gained and this information will be used to assist in interpretation and translation of the project’s findings.

Funding body

The Enhancing Rehabilitation Service for Aboriginal Australian after Brain Injury project is funded by the National Health & Medical Research Council (Project # 1132468) 2017 – 2021.


The project is led by Professor Beth Armstrong (Edith Cowan University) with a team of Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal researchers from Edith Cowan University’s Speech Pathology team, the University of Western Australia, the Western Australian Centre for Rural Health, the University of Notre Dame, Geraldton Regional Aboriginal Medical Service, University of Technology Sydney and Monash University.

Community project partners are the following: Sir Charles Gairdner Hospital, Royal Perth-Bentley Hospitals, Fiona Stanley-Fremantle Hospitals, St John of God Midland Hospital, Western Australia Country Health Service (for sites in Broome, Kalgoorlie, Geraldton and Port Hedland),  Royal Perth Hospital Medical Research Foundation, Geraldton Regional Aboriginal Medical Service, Kimberley Aboriginal Medical Service, Bega Garnbirringu Health Services, Warrika Maya Health Service Aboriginal Health Corporation, the Neurological Council of Western Australia and the Stroke Foundation.

The project will employ a strong team of Aboriginal Brain Injury Coordinators and Cultural Security Trainers across Western Australia.

Chief Investigators

  • Professor Beth Armstrong, Speech Pathology, Edith Cowan University
  • Associate Professor Deborah Hersh, Speech Pathology, Edith Cowan University
  • Associate Professor Judith Katzenellenbogen, Telethon Institute/University of Western Australia
  • Professor Sandra Thompson, WA Centre for Rural Health/University of Western Australia
  • Associate Professor Natalie Ciccone, Speech Pathology, Edith Cowan University
  • Professor Leon Flicker, Royal Perth Hospital/University of Western Australia
  • Professor Juli Coffin, Notre Dame University
  • Dr Tapan Rai, School of Mathematical and Physical Sciences, University of Technology, Sydney
  • Associate Professor Dominique Cadilhac, Faculty of Medicine, Nursing and Health Sciences, Monash University
  • Associate Professor Erin Godecke, Speech Pathology, Edith Cowan University

Associate Investigators

  • Professor Graeme Hankey, School of Medicine and Pharmacology, University of Western Australia
  • Dr Ivan Lin, WA Centre for Rural Health/University of Western Australia
  • Professor Colleen Hayward, Kurongkurl Katitjin, Edith Cowan University
  • Deborah Woods, Geraldton Aboriginal Medical Service
  • Professor Neil Drew, HealthInfoNet, Edith Cowan University

Project Manager

Project Data and Operations Manager

  • Ms Sanita Kratina

For further information about the project please contact:

Professor Beth Armstrong
Telephone: (61 8) 6304 2769


Ms Meaghan McAllister
Telephone: (61 8) 6304 5468

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