Indigenous academics will converge this Friday to launch Ngarruwan Ngadju: First Peoples Health and Wellbeing Research Centre, on the south coast of New South Wales.

Based within the Australian Health Services Research Institute (AHSRI) at the University of Wollongong (UOW), Ngarruwan Ngadju will be a focal point for high impact, Indigenous-led, health and well-being research. The centre will maintain partnerships and relationships with Indigenous communities in the south coast region and beyond.

Professor Kathleen Clapham is a senior Aboriginal researcher and anthropologist, as well as the former director of UOW’s Woolyungah Indigenous Centre.

Professor Clapham says the development of Ngarruwan Ngadju has emerged from strong collaborations.

“It’s emerged from growing our team and our partners. We have been working across the university, from all different faculties, and the centre gives us the ability to bring it all together.”

“To date, Indigenous research at UOW has been scant … [so] when you bring people together and have an open discussion about issues—it cuts across disciplines. We realise pieces of research that people are doing in their own team are all part of the puzzle.”

Dr Marlene Longbottom is a Yuin woman and the current Aboriginal Postdoctoral Research Fellow with the Australian Health Services Research Institute at the University of Wollongong. Dr Longbottom said the centre will promote a holistic approach to Indigenous well-being.

“Being co-located in one space, we can have conversations about different projects.

Dots connect because it’s about the wholeness of wellness,” Dr Longbottom said.

“We know what the chronic disease rates are, we know what the incarceration rates are, we know what the child protection rates are, but we are looking at what is going on and what needs to happen in order for change, and how can our research help community be well.”

“We understand research has had negative impacts on community in the past, so we want to change that power imbalance. We want to have community direct the things that we do,” said Dr Longbottom.

Officially launching on June 14th, Ngarruwan Ngadju will connect with communities along the NSW south coast and internationally.

“We are working with organisations that service communities from Helensburgh in the north, to Bega and Eden in the South, to Yass and Goulburn in the West.”

“There is a large Aboriginal population down the coast and now we can be a resource for them, which was beyond our capacity before.”

The name ‘Ngarruwan Ngadju’ comes from local Dharawal and Dhurga language groups with ‘ngarruwan’ meaning saltwater over a long distance and ‘ngadju’ meaning freshwater.

“Water is sustanance, water is life, we can’t live without it,” Dr Longbottom said.

The team hopes that in time Ngarruwan Ngadju can become a Centre of Excellence.

“We are open to partnerships and funding for more research. In the coming years, we will have a better idea of what place-based means and how we bring together the pocket projects and how we can begin to make a difference in community,” Dr Longbottom said.

By Rachael Knowles