Drinking in the suburbs: the experiences of Aboriginal young people

  • Research program: Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Health
  • Project status: Completed
  • Start date: December 2010
  • Expected end date: September 2015
  • Completion date: August 2014
  • Funded by: Healthway 24213
  • Lead organisation:

This project focused on the experiences of Aboriginal youth with and around alcohol in the south and south-east metropolitan area of Perth. Local Aboriginal organisation, Maamba, had expressed concern about their young people drinking and getting in trouble on the trains, particularly along the Armadale train-line1. The purpose of the study was to provide a comprehensive picture of this group’s experiences in order for services to better target future health promotion for Aboriginal youth. Specifically, youth were asked about their: level of alcohol consumption; experience of alcohol related harms; trouble with police; contexts of drinking; knowledge of health effects; memory of health promotion messages; response to existing health promotion; and, ideas for effective health promotion for this population.

The research was conducted over two phases. Phase One involved consultation with members of the community, various key stakeholders, and with young people. The young people were instrumental in helping to develop and pilot the interview schedules, project materials and a project logo, and renamed the project ‘Make a night, break a night’. Phase Two concentrated on data collection and analysis. A final sample of 32 young people between the ages of 12–21 (drinkers and non-drinkers) participated in in-depth interviews.

Findings indicate that many of the youth are consuming alcohol from an early age and at levels exceeding recommended guidelines for long-term harm. Over the short-term they are experiencing an alarming rate of alcohol-related harms while intoxicated. The majority had found themselves in trouble with authority and a third had been in detention, primarily related to alcohol. The youth showed low knowledge of chronic health effects associated with alcohol and little memory of existing health promotion campaigns

On a positive note, the majority of could identify someone to speak to if they had a problem and someone in their life they admired. They also identified strategies for keeping safe in the often precarious contexts in which they drank. Additionally, two key ideas for future health promotion targeting this group emerged.

The results of this study highlight the need for a youth-friendly approach to health promotion, specifically designed for, conducted by and in consultation with young Aboriginal people. Participants in this study identified what made ‘health promotion sense’ to them. Their ideas can potentially provide a guide for services wishing to target harmful alcohol use among this group and for future health promotion projects.

Name & Contact Details Role Research Program Location
  • Chief Investigator: Mandy Wilson, Curtin University
  • Co-investigator: Julia Butt, Edith Cowan University
  • Co-investigator: Edward Wilkes, Curtin University
  • Co-investigator: Dena Gower, Moorditj Keila Aboriginal Community Group (Southcare)

This project aligns with the following Sustainable Development Goals and Targets:

Wilson, M., Butt, J., C., Gower, D., Wilkes, E., T., Gray, D. and Howe, N. (2013). Drinking in the suburbs: The experiences of Aboriginal young people. National Drug Research Institute, Curtin University, Perth, Western Australia. ISBN: 978-0-9873641-9-7 [R267] Download PDF Abstract