Final r

The final report, Increasing Aboriginal Peoples' Use of Services that Reduce Harm from Illicit Drugs Project Final Report: April 2021, can be read here.



Project status


Ethics approval

WAAHEC granted ethics approval on 21 October 2019. This research was also approved by the Curtin University  Human Research Ethics Committee (approval number: HRE2019-0772) on 11 November 2019.

Chief investigators

Dr Roanna Lobo (Curtin University), Judith Bevan (Sexual Health and Blood-borne Virus Program, Communicable Disease Control Directorate, Department of Health), Dr Mick Adams (Australian Indigenous  HealthInfoNet), Dr Susan Carruthers (Peer Based Harm Reduction WA).

Brief overview

Injecting drug use is of increasing concern among Aboriginal peoples (including Torres Strait Islander peoples) and is associated with co-morbidities related to alcohol use, homelessness and poor mental and physical health outcomes, including the increased risk of blood-borne viruses (BBV) such as HIV and hepatitis C. Needle and syringe programs (NSPs) are known to reduce harm from illicit drugs through the supply and/or exchange of clean injecting equipment. The factors influencing Aboriginal people to utilise these NSP services and opportunities for targeted health promotion/education and improved consumer engagement are unclear.

This research is focused on Aboriginal adults aged over 18 years, living in WA who currently inject or have injected drugs in the past 12 months. The project will adopt a co-design approach, working with Aboriginal community Elders, NSP service providers, researchers, peak bodies and policymakers. The research will explore the target group’s awareness of NSP services, their understanding of safe injecting practices and risk behaviours related to injecting drugs, and the features that encourage or discourage the use of NSP services by Aboriginal people, acknowledging the interconnectedness of factors influencing drug use. Experiences of drug-related shame or stigma and community concerns around NSP will also be explored.


This research is supported by funding from a Healthway Health Promotion Exploratory Research Grant.

Project outputs and impacts

The findings from this research will assist service providers and policymakers to understand the features of NSP services that encourage or discourage use by Aboriginal peoples and the needs of specific groups of Aboriginal people who inject drugs, including supports and services needed to change drug-using behaviours. The co-design working group will develop an intervention to address the key findings.

NSP services that are culturally secure and accessible to Aboriginal populations will likely result in reduced blood-borne virus infections, increased access and engagement with services, and improved community and individual health among Aboriginal people who use illicit drugs.

Project partners

Curtin University, Communicable Disease Control Directorate WA Department of Health, Edith Cowan University, National Drug Research Institute, Peer Based Harm Reduction WA, HepatitisWA,  WA AIDS Council, WA Network of Alcohol and other Drug Agencies, Aboriginal Health Council of WA, Royal Perth Hospital and Derbarl Yerrigan Health Service.


The final report, including findings, can be read here.

Please click on the video below for a discussion of findings from this project.

Findings discussed by Dr Roanna Lobo, Chief Investigator of the project include:

  • barriers and enablers to Aboriginal People who inject drugs accessing NSPs
  • language used for injecting equipment
  • regional/remote consumer NSP experience versus metropolitan,
  • secondary supply of injecting equipment
  • risk mitigation and;
  • proposed interventions to increase access to NSPs for Aboriginal People who inject drugs

Aboriginal Advisory Group

Please click on the video below for a discussion of the experience of Aboriginal Elders in Aboriginal health research.

Elders Isabelle Adams and Mara West, who are on the project's Aboriginal Advisory Group and Co-design Working Group, discuss the role and functions of the Aboriginal Advisory Group and their experiences of leading research concerning a highly sensitive topic for Aboriginal communities.

Co-design Method

Please click on the video below for a discussion of the co-design methodology and methods utilised in this project.

Kevin Winder from Peer Based Harm Reduction WA and Melissa Coci from SiREN discuss the co-design methods used in this project, and the lessons learned. 


A brochure designed for consumers of NSPs, that outlines the findings of the project can be downloaded here. It is designed to be an A5 folded brochure with four panels. A summary report of the findings of the project can be downloaded here.