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This year during NAIDOC Week, the Heart Research Institute (HRI) took the opportunity to learn about First Nations cultures and histories, and to celebrate the oldest, continuous living cultures on earth.

HRI hosted a special NAIDOC Week Seminar with Prof Ben Freedman chairing and Bundjalung Elder Assoc Prof Boe Rambaldini providing an Acknowledgement of Country and an introduction on the health gaps that still exist for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people.

Prof Freedman leads research at HRI into screening for atrial fibrillation (AF) – a leading cause of stroke – and champions earlier screening of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people for AF due to research showing they experience strokes at a much younger age than other Australians. AF occurs more commonly in Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people at an earlier age, and when AF is found earlier, the risk of stroke is much higher than for non-Aboriginal people.

Guest speakers Dr Kylie Gwynne, Dr Connie Henson and Ms Cara Cross from the Djurali Centre for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Health Research and Education presented talks on Indigenous health and medicines to an enthusiastic audience of HRI researchers and operations staff.

Dr Gwynne pre­sent­ed on Oral health in Abo­rig­i­nal communities”.

Dr Gwynne originally initiated the Poche Centre for Indigenous Health program of high impact translational research in 2013, which included Aboriginal academics and community members as Investigators on all research. Her focus on high impact translational co-designed research in oral health, children’s health, genomics, cardiovascular disease, lung disease and health systems reform now continues with the Djurali Centre.

Dr Hen­son pre­sent­ed on Atri­al fib­ril­la­tion: EASI and WEAR IT”.

Dr Henson has over three decades of experience in behaviour and organisational change design and implementation. She uses research methods that combine science with practical realities to create and evaluate digital health programs, and as a psychologist, prioritises understanding the needs of diverse stakeholders to set inclusive research objectives.

Ms Cross pre­sent­ed on Abo­rig­i­nal medicines”.

Ms Cross specialises in Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander health, wellbeing and education research. Her doctoral thesis, “Our Country, Our Healer: Exploring the traditional lithotherapeutics of the Aboriginal pharmacopoeia” examines the manufacture, use and trade of traditional pharmaceutical products. Over the past two years, she has supported the MRFF-funded project “Improving Care Pathways for Otitis Media in Aboriginal Children” as both project officer and research fellow through conducting research, facilitating data collection and coordinating the Aboriginal hearing health scholarships, training and capacity building for Aboriginal Community Controlled Health Services.

The stimulating presentations were followed by a morning tea with native-flavoured foods from local First Nations businesses, and a screening of Satellite Boy, which tells the tale of a 12-year-old Aboriginal boy’s journey to save his home and, ultimately, himself.

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