Didgeridoo Playing and Singing to Support Asthma Management in Aboriginal Australians


  • The project was funded by the Asthma Foundations of Australia. For further information, contact: Dr. Robert Eley, CRRAH, The University of Southern Queensland, West St, Toowoomba, Queensland 4350, Australia; e-mail eleyr@usq.edu.au.


Context: Asthma affects over 15% of Australian Aboriginal people. Compliance in asthma management is poor. Interventions that will increase compliance are required.

Purpose: The purpose of the study was to determine whether Aboriginal children, adolescents and adults would engage in music lessons to increase their knowledge of asthma and support management of their asthma.

Methods: Participants were recruited from schools and through the local Aboriginal Medical Service. All participants identified as Aborigines and were diagnosed as being asthmatic. The intervention was a 6-month program of once weekly music lessons using a culturally significant wind instrument, the didgeridoo, for males and singing lessons for females.

Findings: High school students enthusiastically engaged and had excellent retention in what they considered to be a most enjoyable program. Respiratory function improved significantly in both junior and senior boys who also reported a noticeable improvement in their health. Similar but less significant improvement was seen in the high school girls, although like the boys, they too perceived an improvement in their asthma.

Conclusions: The project demonstrated that music has great potential for engaging and thus supporting asthma. Furthermore, cultural awareness was increased by those playing the didgeridoo and social skills were noticeably improved in the girls. Similar culturally appropriate activities have applications far beyond Aboriginal communities in Australia.