Institute for Health & Ageing

The role of Elders in a contemporary Indigenous Community

The role of Elders in a contemporary Indigenous Community

This project is collaboration between IHA and University of Queensland Rural Clinical School and seeks to work with an Indigenous community in Queensland (Warwick and the surrounding Southern Downs) to understand the contemporary roles of Community Elders. Traditional Elders are integral to the social structure of Australian Indigenous Communities. However, due to reduced life expectancy of Indigenous Australians, older Indigenous people, and consequently, Elders, form a very small proportion of the population. Gaining a contemporary understanding of the position of Indigenous Elders in their communities and how their roles have changed over time is critical to addressing some of the social challenges faced by the Indigenous communities.
Before the project commenced, a Community forum (“yarning group”) was conducted to attain input into what they believe to be an important focus of the project and to inform the design and conduct of the research. As such, the project adopts community-based participatory approach and utilises qualitative methods, including focus groups and interviews. Accordingly, one-on-one semi-structured interviews were used to collect data on the role of Community Elders. In all, 50 interviews and one focus group were conducted with Community members. Data analysis has now been completed and the results are pending feedback of Community members and Elders to discuss action plan for utilising the results to enhance the Community wellbeing.