Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Health

The Southgate Institute strives to conduct respectful, participatory research in partnership with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander health services, programs and communities. We also ensure the health of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples is consistently prioritised in any social determinants and health service research we conduct. The research group is co-led by Dr Tamara Mackean and Dr Toby Freeman and regularly partners with the Poche Centre for Indigenous Health and Well-being.


Key areas of expertise

  • Social determinants of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander health
  • Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander health equity
  • Comprehensive primary health care
  • Racism and discrimination

Current Projects

  • The NHMRC Centre for Research Excellence on the Social Determinants of Health Equity (2015-2020) examines how government policies can work more effectively to address the social determinants of health, so as to improve health and reduce health inequities. It includes policy case studies on the Northern Territory Emergency Response and the Closing the Gap strategy, and the Lowitja Institute is a partner in the centre.

The website for this project is:


  • The NHMRC Regional Primary Health Care Organisations project (2014-2018) is examining how Medicare Locals and their successor, Primary Health Networks, conduct population health planning. Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples are one of the three equity groups the project focuses on. The project is collecting data from Primary Health Networks, and has collected data from Medicare Locals and stakeholders including Aboriginal community controlled health services.

The website for this project is:


  • The Lowitja Institute Health system competence for culturally safe care collaboration seed grant (2017-2018) focuses on building a collaboration of academics and service partners to develop an applied research project examining interventions to improve the capability of health systems and organisations to deliver culturally safe care to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander patients and communities.
  • NHMRC Project led by Dr Peter Arrow and based in Kimberley WA titled “Minimally Invasive Dentistry based on Atraumatic Restorative Treatment (ART) to manage Early Childhood Caries in rural and remote Aboriginal communities” (2017-2021).  The principal aim of the proposed study is to develop, implement and evaluate a remote primary care model to deliver effective primary dental services, encompassing treatment and preventive services, to Aboriginal pre-school children (based on minimally invasive approaches including ART).
  • NHMRC Coolamon Project led by Dr Rebecca Ivers (The George Institute) is a multi-site project examining care processes and health outcomes for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children and their families who experience burns requiring tertiary burn care. 
  • Lowitja Institute project 1415 on the key factors associated with Aboriginal suicide in SA is using data from the National Coronial Information Service (NCIS) and from community experts to develop relevant analysis frameworks and more comprehensive understanding of service responses to suicide. 
  • Lowitja Institute seeding project based in NSW (the George Institute) looking at primary health care services as first responders for Aboriginal women experiencing family violence.

 Key finished projects:

  • The NHMRC Comprehensive primary health care project (2009-2014) partnered with a state-managed Aboriginal health service, a community controlled health service (Central Australian Aboriginal Congress Aboriginal Corporation), and four mainstream serves to examine how they implemented comprehensive primary health care.

The Congress findings were summarised in the following user friendly report:


  • “In our own backyard: Urban health inequities and Aboriginal experiences of neighbourhood life, social capital and racism” (2006-2009) surveyed Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people living in urban Adelaide about experiences of racism and its impact on their health. The report is available at: 



Significant Past Projects

Social Determinants of Aboriginal Health
Investigator: Professor Fran Baum
Yarning On
Partner: SHine SA
Comprehensive Primary Health Care in Local Communities

Adelaide urban location and health
Investigator: Professor Fran Baum, A/Prof Wendy Edmondson, A/Prof Anna Ziersch, Dr Catherine Palmer
Partners: Cooperative Research Centre for Aboriginal Health

Contextual and composition determinants of urban health inequities: an Indigenous perspective (NHMRC)
Investigators: Professor Fran Baum, Dr Catherine Palmer, A/Prof Anna Ziersch, A/Prof Wendy Edmondson, Dr Michael Bentley, Dr Gilbert Gallaher

Self-management and prevention of diabetes in the Aboriginal Health Strategy: Process for program development and evaluation.
Investigators: Dr Michael Bentley , Mr Paul Laris

Key Staff 



Dr Tamara Mackean

Senior Research Fellow

Dr Toby Freeman

Deputy Director, Southgate Institute

Senior Research Fellow

Professor Fran Baum AO

Director, Southgate Institute


Courtney Ryder

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Elaine Kite

Research Fellow Indigenous Health

A/Prof Anna Ziersch

Senior Research Fellow

Dr Annabelle Wilson

Dr Annabelle Wilson

Research Fellow

Dr Matt Fisher

Senior Research Fellow 

Dr. Kathryn Browne-Yung

Research Fellow

Paula Lynch

Administrative Officer (Research)



PhD students:

 The Southgate Institute is supervising a number of PhD students examining Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander health research, including:


Courtney Ryder



Emma George

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Pip Henderson

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 Sarah Fraser

PhD and Masters by Research

We offer a dynamic and supportive environment for postgraduate students. For general enquiries please contact the Southgate Institute on enquiries.southgateinstitute@flinders.edu.au