Australia has consistently witnessed limited to no improvement in the health indicators of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples’. Indigenous life expectancy for 1996–2001 was 59 years for males and 65 years for females. This figure is approximately 17 years below the 77 years and 82 years life expectancy for all Australian males and females respectively, for the 1998–2000 period (1). There have been some improvements in life expectancy in the Northern Territory, however there is no indication that health has improved overall for the total Indigenous population (2). Within the North Queensland region, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities face some of the poorest health outcomes in Australia (3).
Despite this, minimal research has been conducted looking into the rehabilitation needs of Indigenous communities within North Queensland. James Cook University’s Strategic Intent states that it is “…committed to working towards the achievement of genuine and sustainable reconciliation between Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples and the wider community” (4). Staff of the Faculty of Medicine, Health and Molecular Sciences within the School of Public Health, Tropical Medicine and Rehabilitation Sciences (SPHTMRS) has been actively translating this statement into research. In 2006/7 a number of staff, including Indigenous academics, came together to plan a research agenda that could explore the rehabilitation needs of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities in North Queensland. The aim of the collaborative was to direct research about the community, educators, service providers and rehabilitation science students, without overburdening local Indigenous consultants.