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Keywords:

  • Aboriginal;
  • Indigenous;
  • social and emotional wellbeing;
  • programs;
  • evaluation

Abstract

Objective : To review the empirical evidence that exists to support the delivery of the range of psycho-social interventions that have been implemented to improve social and emotional wellbeing (SEWB) in Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander individuals and communities.

Methods : A systematic review of the available literature, with relevant evaluations classified using the Maryland Scientific Methods Scale.

Results : Despite a substantial literature on topics relevant to SEWB being identified, only a small number of program evaluations have been published that meet the criteria for inclusion in a systematic review, making it impossible to articulate what might be considered evidence-based practice in this area. Examples of those programs with the strongest empirical support are outlined.

Conclusions : The results are discussed in terms of the need to develop key indicators of improvement in SEWB, such that more robust evidence about program outcomes can be gathered. The diversity of the identified programs further suggests the need to develop a broader and over-arching framework from which to approach low levels of SEWB, drawing on the concepts of ‘grief and loss’ and ‘healing’ and how high levels of social disadvantage have an impact on service utilisation and outcomes.

Implications : From a public health perspective, the pressing need to implement programs that have positive impacts on low levels of social and emotional well-being in Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities in Australia seems clear.