Healing Holistically – Healthy Country and Community

Current collaborations  

Matthews co-leads the Centre for Research Excellence in Strengthening systems for Indigenous health care Equity (CRE-STRIDE; 2020-2024). STRIDE’s work is diverse, investigating the full gamut of topics within comprehensive primary care from social and emotional wellbeing and preventive health, as well as systems issues such as workforce and determinants of health, such as the role of connection to Country in wellbeing.

The STRIDE collaboration is challenging norms of research practice that are based on non-Indigenous paradigms. STRIDE is encouraging reflection and change within research systems to recognise and embrace Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander knowledges, theories and methodologies. The value of Indigenous Knowledge systems has been vastly underappreciated, and research has played a major part in sidelining First Nations’ voices.

There is wide consensus, as evidenced in recent key policy frameworks such as the ‘Closing the Gap refresh,’ that to remedy current inequities, health solutions need to come from Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities, drawing on culture, local knowledge and experience. It requires decolonisation – a shift away from purely Western thought traditions and systems to embrace Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander ways of knowing, being and doing. 

With this same philosophy, Matthews also leads the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Knowledges’ theme of the Healthy Environments And Lives (HEAL) Network (2022-2026). That aims to improve health and wellbeing through healthy environments.

A National Health and Medical Research Council (NHMRC) Special Initiative, this interdisciplinary, cross-sectoral collaboration unites stakeholders from research institutes, government agencies, industry, services and communities across Australia.

A key priority of the HEAL Network is working alongside Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities to strengthen adaptive capacity and reduce climate risk. Matthews leads the Healing Country Project which weaves together knowledge systems to meet climate challenges (ARC Discovery 2022 – 2026). The aim is to bring together community knowledges and health, climate and environment data to create community story-data maps.

These interactive, online maps will be a unique and powerful blend of information, providing a rich evidence base, decision-support and communication tool to inform the co-design of local climate change mitigation and adaptation plans. The project aims to give agency to Aboriginal communities in leading systems-change processes to reduce environmental risks and strengthen health and wellbeing.