The role of empowerment through life skills development in building comprehensive primary health care systems in Indigenous Australia Academic Article uri icon


  • This paper examines the potential contribution of empowerment through life skills development in building effective primary health Care (PHC) systems in Indigenous Australia. More specifically, it assesses the effectiveness of a Family Wellbeing (FWB) empowerment program as a tool for "engaging" Aboriginal people of Cape York to take greater control and responsibility for their health and wellbeing as part of a broader Cape York Partnerships Initiative. Preliminary findings from the pilot study demonstrated the acceptability of the program to both adults and school children. Challenges and opportunities involved in introducing and sustaining such programs in remote Indigenous settings were also highlighted. This follow-up study presents information which demonstrates the critical role that empowerment programs such as FWB may play in achieving the "hardest parts" of the PHC ideal; namely, enhancing the capacity of people to be their own change agents. The key features of the FWB approach that make it effective are that it starts small and focuses on people, it puts people before structures, and it works from personal empowerment or the micro before broadening out to tackling structural issues. This paper highlights the importance of empowerment through life skills development as critical components of PHC systems. The paper also highlights the need for health professionals to work towards creating comprehensive PHC environments through policies and programs that address crucial parts of the PHC ideal - parts which, until now, have been left in the "too hard basket". They include equity, self-determination, world peace and reductions in spending on armaments in order to increase resources to the PHC sector. The aim is to ensure healthy policy environments that support local Indigenous health development initiatives such as those currently being pursued by Cape York leaders.


  • Tsey, Komla
  • Travers, Helen
  • Gibson, Teresa
  • Whiteside, Mary
  • Cadet-James, Yvonne
  • Haswell-Elkins, Melissa
  • McCalman, Janya
  • Wilson, Andrew

publication date

  • 2005