Western Australian researchers have developed and trialled a world-first service that will enhance the rehabilitation experience for Aboriginal Australians who have had a stroke or traumatic brain injury.

The Aboriginal Brain Injury Coordinator role was rolled out between 2018 – 2022, providing support, education, information and advocacy.

The role was filled by Aboriginal health professionals and was developed as a way of providing culturally appropriate care and support for Aboriginal people during their recovery.

The Aboriginal Brain Injury Coordinator service was trialled in Western Australia as part of the Healing Right Way study, led by Professor Beth Armstrong and a team of Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal clinicians and researchers.

It was performed in partnership with Aboriginal Medical Services, eight hospitals across Western Australia and the Stroke Foundation.

“Aboriginal Australians experience stroke and traumatic brain injury at significant rates and a culturally appropriate response to rehabilitation and recovery has been really lacking,” says Chief Investigator, Professor Beth Armstrong.

Over 100 Aboriginal people who had experienced a stroke or traumatic brain injury participated in Healing Right Way.

They came from across Western Australia, with many people living in rural and
remote areas where there are few support and rehabilitation services.

In studies prior to Healing Right Way, Aboriginal stroke survivors had shared with Professor Armstrong’s team that their care would have been enhanced had there been greater cultural responsiveness, including in the communication with health professionals and by having more Aboriginal health professionals involved in their care.

During the study nine Aboriginal Brain Injury Coordinators met with patients while they were in hospital, delivering them face-to-face and over the phone support and then followed them up for six months.

The study also delivered cultural security training to hospital staff with a focus on the needs of Aboriginal stroke and traumatic brain injury survivors.