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PhD uncovers valuable information for Aboriginal health

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A Curtin University senior lecturer has sparked interest in the Indigenous health community with her PhD findings on what builds resilience in successful Aboriginal people.

Dr Marion Kickett, from the Curtin Health Innovation Research Institute’s Aboriginal Health and Education Research Unit, is one of the first researchers to use traditional Aboriginal methodologies to conduct such a study.

Dr Kickett said she met with Aboriginal Elders and successful Aboriginal people who had been working or studying for 10 or more years to determine what their definition of resilience was and how they became resilient.

The notion of resilience interested her because it seemed Aboriginal people who could make peace with the past had a better chance at success in life. She wanted to understand the path to resilience in order to help others find a way forward.

“I used the processes of Yarning and Lifelines to talk to them about their stories which were intensely personal and emotional, to find out what motivates them to keep going and live successfully across two cultures,” Dr Kickett said.

Dr Kickett identified a number of common themes that emerged from the life stories of the people interviewed, which she said influenced how resilient the person was.

“The things that were most important to people were family identity and culture, as well as individual spirituality and a sense of belonging,” she said.

“It soon became clear that the people who were the most resilient and able to move on were those who had addressed these issues.”

Dr Kickett presented her findings to various organisations and interest quickly grew as health professionals realised how valuable the information was for the physical and mental health of Aboriginal people.

“It’s a positive outcome that those working in Aboriginal health can use in their programs to help Aboriginal people realise that by dealing with their past, forgiving and letting go they can move forward with their lives,” she said.

Dr Kickett is the first Aboriginal student to receive an Indigenous scholarship from Healthway WA for successfully completing a PhD.

Due to the interest created from her PhD, Dr Kickett has decided to write a book to share the findings with a broader audience.

Notes to editor:

  • Dr Marion Kickett teaches Indigenous Cultures and Health 130 which is a compulsory component of all Health Sciences students’ first year (ie: about 2000 students each year across 22 health professions). The course gives students a solid foundation of learning about Indigenous cultures, ways of working together and health outcomes for Indigenous people. It provides an early opportunity for future health professionals to learn the advantages of working collaboratively with other health professionals, including Aboriginal colleagues, and Indigenous clients. The course has been a great success and proven very popular with students – some of whom have never known an Aboriginal person before taking the course.


Dr Marion Kickett, Aboriginal Health and Education Research Unit,
Curtin Health Innovation Research Institute, Curtin University
Tel: 08 9266 1751, Email:

Kristy Jones, Public Relations, Curtin University
Tel: 08 9266 9085, Email:


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