Background: Wellbeing has been difficult to understand, measure and strengthen for Aboriginal people in remote Australia. Part of the challenge has been genuinely involving community members and incorporating their values and priorities into assessment and policy. Taking a 'shared space' collaborative approach between remote Aboriginal communities, governments and scientists, we merged Aboriginal knowledge with western science - by bringing together stories and numbers. This research aims to statistically validate the holistic Interplay Wellbeing Framework and Survey that bring together Aboriginal-identified priorities of culture, empowerment and community with government priorities including education, employment and health.
Method: Quantitative survey data were collected from a cohort of 842 Aboriginal people aged 15-34 years, recruited from four different Aboriginal communities in remote Australia. Aboriginal community researchers designed and administered the survey.
Results: Structural equation modeling showed good fit statistics (χ/df = 2.69, CFI = 0.95 and RMSEA = 0.045) confirming the holistic nature of the Interplay Wellbeing Framework. The strongest direct impacts on wellbeing were 'social and emotional wellbeing' (r = 0.23; p < 0.001), 'English literacy and numeracy' (r = 0.15; p < 0.001), 'Aboriginal literacy' (r = 0.14; p < 0.001), 'substances' (lack thereof; r = 0.13; p = 0.003), 'work' (r = 0.12; p = 0.02) and 'community' (r = 0.08; p = 0.05). Correlation analyses suggested cultural factors have indirect impacts on wellbeing, such as through Aboriginal literacy. All cultural variables correlated highly with each other, and with empowerment and community. Empowerment also correlated highly with all education and work variables. 'Substances' (lack thereof) was linked with positive outcomes across culture, education and work. Specific interrelationships will be explored in detail separately.
Conclusion: The Interplay Wellbeing Framework and Survey were statistically validated as a collaborative approach to assessing wellbeing that is inclusive of other cultural worldviews, values and practices. New community-derived social and cultural indicators were established, contributing valuable insight to psychometric assessment across cultures. These analyses confirm that culture, empowerment and community play key roles in the interplay with education, employment and health, as part of a holistic and quantifiable system of wellbeing. This research supports the holistic concept of wellbeing confirming that everything is interrelated and needs to be considered at the 'whole of system' level in policy approaches.