Engage, understand, listen and act: evaluation of Community Panels to privilege First Nations voices in pandemic planning and response in Australia

August 18, 2022

A study published in BMJ Global examined how government authorities and policymakers can meaningfully engage First Nations Peoples in decision-making around pandemic planning and response

Study authors: Kristy Crooks, Kylie Taylor, Charlee Law, Sandra Campbell, Adrian Miller

What is already known on this topic

  • First Nations Peoples were excluded from Australian pre-2009 pandemic plans and yet experienced disproportionately far worse health outcomes in terms of unmet health needs, hospitalisations, intensive care unit admissions and death.

  • Health emergency plans in Australia often frame First Nations Peoples within a deficit lens, fail to reflect social realities, nor understand the root cause of the described disparity or health outcome, which is ongoing colonisation, racism and unmet health needs.

  • First Nations health is often measured against the health of non-First Nations Australians, which inadvertently pushes the public health benchmark into a Western context and worldview.

  • This worldview does not necessarily meet the goals or needs of First Nations Peoples in pandemic health plans.

  • There is limited evidence of effective engagement with First Nations Peoples in pandemic governance.

  • One-off or rushed ‘consultations’ with First Nations Peoples have the potential to cause harm, and often fail to incorporate and value the historical, cultural and social contexts of First Nations Peoples in the development and implementation of health plans, programmes and policy.

  • While current national COVID-19 pandemic plans have been developed specifically for First Nations Peoples and highlight the need for health services to engage First Nations communities in the development of local plans, these plans do not outline how this could be done.

What this study adds

  • A way for government authorities and policymakers to meaningfully engage First Nations Peoples in decision-making around pandemic response.

How this study might affect research, practice or policy

  • This study shows that listening and taking time, building approaches and understanding with First Nations Peoples in a culturally appropriate and acceptable governance structure can make a difference.

  • Respecting First Nations ways through two-way learning and communication with non-First Nations Peoples can help develop deeper understanding of the realities of the past, present and future that can also be incorporated into important public health policy.

Access the study here

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