Telethon Kids Institute

Through the Kimberley platform of its Kulunga Aboriginal Unit, Telethon Kids Institute promotes a community-led approach to child health research in some of the most remote and vulnerable communities in Western Australia by partnering with Aboriginal Elders, families and community organisations.  

The success of this approach has been evidenced by the progress made by teams working in the region, alongside the strong relationships built across the region, to support research activities to address the specific health challenges for children in the Kimberley. 

In recent years, Telethon Kids identified a need for an ongoing presence in regional communities to reinforce health messages, check and monitor health and support broader research activities.  

To enable this a Capacity Building Coordinator was appointed to identify and recruit Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander community members to support the Institute’s research activities. The new recruits are trained in research methodologies and provide ongoing support for the researchers and the research programs being carried out. 

INPEX-led Ichthys Joint Venture was pleased to support this initiative as we aim to contribute to improving health and wellbeing outcomes for young Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples in the region.

We also value the more immediate outcomes of the program in increasing community understanding and appreciation of the research being undertaken by Telethon Kids, and the upskilling of local health workers in an exciting and valuable field. 

Having reached the end of the first partnership term, the program is already kicking goals, thanks to the efforts of Capacity Building Coordinator, Liam Bedford, who added the responsibility to an existing role he holds with Telethon Kids in Broome.  

Liam has been able to leverage the relationships formed through his years with the Institute, and his knowledge of the needs and resources specific to each community, to identify further support for the Telethon Kids’ research.  

Telethon Kids Kimberley personnel (image courtesy of Telethon Kids) 

Additionally, Telethon Kids collaborated with the University of Notre Dame Australia in Broome and the Lowitja Research Institute to develop a suite of training courses to equip the Aboriginal Community Researcher candidates with the skills and knowledge required for the role.  

Through these coordinated efforts, the Kulunga team has worked closely with Yuri Yungi Aboriginal Medical Services in Halls Creek to identify one of their Health Services employees to fulfil a joint role as an Aboriginal Community Researcher and Health Promotion Officer. 

Prof. Andre Schultz, Program Head Respiratory Health at Telethon Kids Institute, advised that their Building Respiratory Equity for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Health (BREATH) program wouldn’t have the same impact without the involvement of Yuri Yungi.  

“This partnership will lead to not only better lung health in the community, but also the ongoing sustainability of Telethon Kids research in the East Kimberley,” Prof. Schultz commented. 

To overcome worker shortages and to ensure that individuals involved in this program have sustainable employment, Telethon Kids has cleverly engaged with community medical services to arrange for existing health worker personnel to spend dedicated time working with research teams. This model not only brings learnings from extensive research programs to Halls Creek and its surrounds, but partners this with local knowledge of people and culture to generate significant impacts and further advances local health services. 

Capacity Building and Community Engagement Coordinator, Liam Bedford, believe the program will ensure that Telethon Kids continues to build capacity across the Kimberley. 

“It will also ensure research knowledge stays on Country so that communities continue to benefit both now and into the future,’ said Liam. 

The second term of the community partnership will see the expansion of the capacity building program into other communities across the region over the next three years, including an additional two communities over the coming year. 

INPEX-led Ichthys Joint Venture is delighted to continue support for the program as it enters this exciting new phase of the program.