History timeline

The HealthInfoNet ‘began life’ in September 1997 as the National Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Health Clearinghouse. Our origins, however, can be traced back to 1981, when the Australian Institute of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Studies established a research fellowship to enable the collection, synthesis and dissemination of information about Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander health. Our founding Director, Professor Neil Thomson, was appointed in May 1981 to that research fellowship, which involved two main functions: research (involving primary data collection and analysis, and the synthesis of a wide variety of data and other information obtained from academic, professional, government and other sources); and dissemination and exchange of information.

Our work in the late 1990s focused on adapting these functions to take advantage of the expanding Internet – which assisted the first function, and revolutionised the second. Our current name – which was adopted in 2000 at the time of a major re-development of the resource – reflects the fact that our functions are well beyond those of a ‘clearinghouse’.

With so much research being produced, the health sector find it difficult to keep up to date with the latest developments in their field. Translational research is the process of taking the research produced by researchers at universities and other research organisations and summarising, or ‘translating’, it into a form that is easily understood and can be more easily applied in the workplace. The Australian Indigenous HealthInfoNet shares information with people working and studying in the area of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander health and provides up to date information in different ways, allowing people to increase their knowledge and keep up to date with what is happening. This can help speed up the process of learning about Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander health and what can be done to improve health services and practices. The HealthInfoNet provides different types of products related to translational research and the reviews are part of this.

Since 2000, to assist those working or studying in the field of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander health, the HealthInfoNet has produced more than 40 overviews, summaries and reviews reporting on a wide range of health conditions affecting Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people. In this way, the Australian Indigenous HealthInfoNet‘s translational research helps to close the gap in health between Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people and other Australians.

Renamed Australian Indigenous HealthInfoNet as it was no longer just a clearinghouse function.

The HealthInfoNet has achieved national and international recognition for its innovative approaches to the generation and sharing of knowledge. This recognition includes being chosen as a finalist in the prestigious Stockholm Challenge Award (the international award that highlights the benefits that information and communication technology can bring to people and society) and winning the Public

A prototype Internet resource ‘community of practice’ (CoP) on injecting drug use (IDU) and blood-borne viruses in Indigenous people. This was the predecessor to what we now refer to as yarning places. This was followed by the development of integrated knowledge resources (including CoPs) for CVD and road safety which were launched in 2005. The CoPs were renamed yarning places in 2007

The former ‘Summary of Indigenous Health’ was renamed the ‘Overview of Indigenous health’ to reflect its length and comprehensive coverage. In the same year the Summary of Indigenous health was transformed into a plain language document. The Overview, which draws on the most up-to-date, authoritative sources and undertakes some special analyses, is freely available on the HealthInfoNet web resource, along with downloadable PowerPoint presentations of key facts, tables, and figures. It is an important part of the HealthInfoNet‘s commitment to collaborative knowledge exchange, which contributes to closing the gap in health between Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people and other Australians by making research and other knowledge available in a form that is easily understood and readily accessible to both practitioners and policy makers. The Overview is our flagship publication and has proved to be a valuable resource for a very wide range of health professionals, policy makers and others working in the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander health sector. The Overview provides an accurate, evidence based summary of many health conditions in a form that makes it easy for time poor professionals to keep up to date with the current health status of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people throughout Australia.

We moved to new offices located on the third floor of Kurongkurl Katitijn Centre for Indigenous Australian Education and Research at the Mount Lawley campus of Edith Cowan University.

There is a selection of both Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander art on the website and featuring artists from across the country. Each health topic has its own piece of unique art

There are now 18 yarning places. Our yarning places (these were formerly called communities of practice) are electronic networks that enable people to yarn, share information, knowledge and experience – even when they live in different states, territories and regions, come from different sectors (such as health, education and jus

and work for different organisations.


Donna Lei Rioli – a Western Australian Indigenous artist – was commissioned by the HealthInfoNet in 2008 to create a new logo incorporating a gecko for the re-development of its website. The gecko was chosen because it is one of a few animals that are found across the great diversity of Australia. Donna is a young Tiwi/ Nyoongar woman who is dedicated to the heritage and culture of the Tiwi people on her father’s side, and the Nyoongar people on her mother’s side. Donna enjoys painting because it enables her to express her Tiwi and Nyoongar and she combines the two in a unique way. Donna interpreted the brief with great awareness and conveyed an integrated work that focuses symbolically on the pathway through life.

The HealthInfoNet developed a section specifically relating to Closing the Gap on their free-to-access web resource. This new section provides detailed information on the history, goals, current initiatives and progress on Closing the Gap, and is a portal for relevant accessing reports, COAG Communiqués, policy documents, conference presentations, journal articles, opinion pieces and speeches. It also provides comprehensive key information, current news items, reports, policy information and resources on this important topic.

The HealthInfoNet and Asthma Australia joined forces to make relevant up to date high quality information about asthma freely available to those working in this area to improve outcomes for Indigenous Australians. This information will be made available on the HealthInfoNet website in the respiratory section and will also connect users of the site to Asthma Australia services.

The HealthInfoNet was funded to pilot a workshop program of half-day workshops throughout Western Australia on the use of the web resource. The 18 month project will focus on using the HealthInfoNet resource to provide frontline service workers with information acquisition and utilisation skills on health issues that are relevant to the Indigenous population.

The HealthInfoNet received several awards in 2011. The Vice Chancellors Excellence in Research Award (Edith Cowan University). The award which was established as a way to recognise and reward staff for outstanding achievements, across a range of categories. The HealthInfoNet received this accolade for its vital role in translation research within the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander health sector.

The 2011 National Drug and Alcohol Awards. The HealthInfoNet was one of three finalists nominated for the category of Excellence in Research. The awards are an annual event that encourage, recognise and celebrate achievements to prevent and reduce alcohol and other drug use and harm in Australia

Winner of the ‘Diversity’ category 2011 Australia New Zealand Internet Awards. The judges of the ‘Diversity’ category agreed that the HealthInfoNet makes a significant contribution to improving the health of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders – \”Through a visually stunning interface, the HealthInfoNet has developed an online Indigenous health resource, which helps overcome the obstacles posed by Australia’s vast geographic expanses and the remoteness of many affected communities\” The judges commented that many communities and projects from outside Australia could learn a lot from this important resource that appropriately respects the culture of our first nation people.

Two separate events were held to mark the 15 year occasion – the first was held in Canberra on 13 September to acknowledge the ongoing funding by the Department of Health and Ageing, attended by The Minister for Indigenous Health, the Honourable Warren Snowdon MP. An event at ECU’s Mount Lawley Campus rounded off the celebrations. Attended by Vice-Chancellor Professor Kerry Cox and staff integral to the success of the resource, the event celebrated the great work of HealthInfoNet to date. Professor Cox acknowledged the HealthInfoNet as a leader in translational research, getting research findings to health practitioners to improve health outcomes.

Celebrating 30 years, the Australian Indigenous HealthBulletin started life in April 1982 as a hard-copy publication. It is now a peer-reviewed electronic journal published by the Australian Indigenous HealthInfoNet. HealthBulletin founder, Professor Neil Thomson, says ‘my initial research in 1981 as Research Fellow in Aboriginal health at the Australian Institute of Aboriginal Studies (AIAS; now Australian Institute of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Studies (AIAT

confirmed the
impression I’d gained while working in the Kimberley region of WA in 1978-79 that much relevant information failed to reach many people involved in Aboriginal health. Information was either not published or, if it was, not readily available. In addition, published information was scattered across many journals and other publications. The Aboriginal Health Project Information Bulletin was created to enable a more appropriate dissemination of relevant information’. With a wide range of users (policy makers, service providers, researchers, students and the general commu[/aihtimelineitem] the publication is still – after 30 years – making a wealth of
relevant, up-to-date information freely available.

Donna Lei Rioli – a Western Australian Indigenous artist – was commissioned by the HealthInfoNet to create a unique piece of art for a new Indigenous mental health web resource on the Australian Indigenous HealthInfoNet website. The artwork by Donna Rioli represents the many factors that impact on the social and emotional wellbeing of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people.


A new CPD portal on the HealthInfoNet website recognises the importance of continuing practice development for health practitioners.

The Australian Charity Awards winners in the prestigious ‘Outstanding achievement’ category. The award recognises charitable organisations that have achieved outstanding results through initiatives that have significantly raised the awareness and/or funds for a charitable cause and are designed to showcase the dedication and success of non-profit organisations and the measurable impact of their campaigns and initiatives.

Professor Neil Drew joined as the new Director of the Australian Indigenous HealthInfoNet from the 3rd February 2014. Neil has more than 30 years’ experience working with a diverse range of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities and groups, initially in Queensland and more recently in WA. As a community psychologist, his long-term involvement to the discipline has been in his role as program head and co-founder of the Aboriginal Youth and Community Wellbeing Program, which promotes wellness and suicide prevention with young Aboriginal people in the East Kimberley region of WA. Neil has lived in East Kimberley Aboriginal communities for two months each year over the past eight years. Neil Drew also bring to the Director’s role substantial experience in the tertiary education sector with the University of Notre Dame Australia (UNDA) as Foundation Head of Behavioural Science, Dean of Arts and Sciences, and Deputy Head of UNDA’s Broome Campus.

2014 the HealthInfoNet received a Letter of Commendation at the awards for the quality of the HealthInfoNet social and emotional wellbeing section of the 2014 Mental Health Service Achievements Awards,

Winner of the Vice Chancellors Excellence in Research Engagement Award (Edith Cowan University). This award recognises the importance of engagement in the research activities of the University, of research that adds value to the community and makes a difference; developing research projects which have been determined, in part, by the community. The HealthInfoNet received this accolade for the vital role it plays in the engaging with a wide range of stakeholders across the country.

Dr Mick Adams has been actively involved in addressing issues associated with the health and well-being of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander males for much of his 30 year career. This key leadership role in guiding the development of the HealthInfoNet strategic research agenda, examining the importance of knowledge translation will boost the primary research capability of the HealthInfoNet. His experience, contribution and stature in the field of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander health will enable us to not only build our research capability but to strengthen collaborative partnerships. Uncle Mick was honoured with a national award at a ceremony in Melbourne receiving an Elders award from the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Higher Education Advisory Council.

The HealthInfoNet launched a healing portal (funded by The Healing Foundation) on the HealthInfoNet website (www.healthinfonet.ecu.edu.au/related-issues/healing). The healing portal will engage users from a broad range of areas including health, justice, child protection and family violence. At the heart of the portal and Yarning place is the connection with culture, knowledge systems and information sharing.

Also this year a new portal to address Aboriginal maternal smoking issues in WA was added. The free to access portal will provide coordinated access to information, resources, tools and training on preventing maternal smoking for those working with pregnant Aboriginal women, new mothers and their families.

And a new tobacco section http://www.aodknowledgecentre.net.au/aodkc/aodkc-tobacco which will support efforts to reduce harmful tobacco use among Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people.

The HealthInfoNet developed a Women’s Health Yarning Place in partnership with the Monash Centre for Health Research and Innovation (MCHRI). The free on line yarning place was added to facilitate closer connection for those working across the country in Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander women’s health.

The Kirby Institute, UNSW Australia, continue to fund the Offender health section of the Australian Indigenous HealthInfoNet which saw an updated review of Indigenous Offender health.

The HealthInfoNet also turned 18 in this year and celebrated with new milestones. Over 3 million users, 15 million page views and there have been 5 million sessions.

This year saw the production of our first e book, app, short films called InfoBytes (bite sized learning

opportunities), and infographics providing multiple ways of learning utilising the latest technologies. The introduction of webinars also transformed the way we reach out to our users and keep them up to date. In 2016 we had over 1.1 million sessions, reached to over 740,000 users and had just under 3 million page views (an increase of 3.75%, 2.73% and 3.97% respectively from 2015). We had 18 online yarning places with a total membership of 4,977. 2016 also saw the passing of retired Founding HealthInfoNet Director, Professor Neil Thomson.

Early in 2016, the HealthBibliography reached a milestone with over 25,000 publications.

The HealthInfoNet launched a new online portal for the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander chronic disease workforce. The portal at http://www.healthinfonet.ecu.edu.au/chronic-conditions/chronic-disease-workers-portal is part of an ongoing commitment by the HealthInfoNet to keep the sector informed about health conditions affecting Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people. The portal provides information about chronic conditions that are a problem for all Australians but particularly for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people including: heart disease, diabetes, respiratory (lung) diseases, cancers and kidney disease. It also covers physical activity and nutrition as these factors influence many chronic conditions.

A new Tackling Indigenous Smoking portal has been launched as part of the Health Department’s Tackling Indigenous Smoking (TIS) Programme.

The Australian Indigenous HealthBulletin, celebrates 35 years of bringing together the latest information about Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander health. The HealthBulletin began as a hard copy publication in April 1982. Since its inception it has continued to develop and later became the current online version. The HealthBulletin is a crucial part of the HealthInfoNet‘s goal to identify and disseminate up to date information as part of its knowledge exchange program.

The Preventing Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Maternal Smoking (PATSIMS) portal was launched. Designed to improve access to information, resources, support and training for health professionals addressing tobacco smoking among pregnant Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander women, new mothers, and their families. Previously called the Preventing Aboriginal Maternal Smoking in WA (PAMSWA) portal, the new-look PATSIMS will have a national focus, but still retain all the same valuable tools, resources and information. The portal is located on the Australian Indigenous HealthInfoNet web resource http://www.healthinfonet.ecu.edu.au/population-groups/preventing-maternal-smoking

In September 2017, the HeathInfoNet celebrated 20 years with an event in Canberra at parliament House. Guest speakers included Minister Wyatt and ECUs Vice Chancellor. Visitor stats continue to increase, over the last year the HealthInfoNet had 3 million page views, 1 million sessions, and just under 800,000 users. Digital tools continue to be added. Our eBooks, webinars, animated infographics, short InfoByte films are some of the many learning tools to support a time poor workforce. The HealthInfoNet is close to finalising a responsive design which will transform the user experience. The HealthInfoNet is a custom built web resource designed in house. This transformation has been a comprehensive re design project of the front and back end functionality and has been guided by a strong evidence base. The web resource will be accessed on any device and platform, will be faster and has multiple search options. This will be available at the start of 2018.

This was designed in house and ensured our site was responsive and accessible on every device for our users to have instant access. As part of our commitment to excellence in knowledge exchange research, in 2018 we established two new teams. The Impact and Evaluation Team oversees, the impact and evaluation research designed to provide the evidence base for the theory and method of knowledge exchange research in Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander health. The second team is the Knowledge Exchange Product Team, responsible for ensuring a consistent and evidence based approach to the co-design, co-construction and co-production of our knowledge exchange materials and resources. In addition to the two new teams we also added a Social Media Coordinator to our staffing mix, to ensure that our social media presence was strategic and well planned to enhance our knowledge exchange activities. A new palliative care and end of life portal was added to the site.
This year we partnered with eMHPrac (e-mental health in practice) to commence designing and curating a new website dedicated to information about social and emotional wellbeing (SEWB) digital resources for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people. The new website (WellMob) will be the first of its kind to bring together online SEWB resources all in the one place. We joined forces with The Fred Hollows Foundation and expanded information about Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander eye health on the Eye Health Portal. New resources included multimedia resources in multiple formats to meet the varied information needs and learning styles of those working in the eye health sector.
  • In response to the emerging pandemic, we quickly established our COVID-19 Information and Updates section in March 2020, to facilitate swift access to high quality, reliable information from a number of authoritative sources. During 2020, we had a 9% increase in site visits. In May, we reached the milestone of 40,000 entries in our library database. With a focus on enhancing our knowledge capabilities through social media, our engagement grew by 36%. We added a new cultural safety portal for health professionals. We automated our online Journal using Be Press making it easier for our authors to submit articles and this extended our reach internationally.
  • We added a new sexual health portal. Through engagement with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander experts in the field, topics for the sexual health portal focused on the aspects of sexual health that impact Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander individuals and their communities
  • New look Community Portal on the AOD Knowledge Centre expanded its content and focus better supports Elders and community members
  • The HealthBulletin journal transitioned to a new automated manuscript management system and joined ECU’s repository of online peer-reviewed journals. As a result, the Journal became more visible and accessible to researchers and readers throughout the world.
  • Resources to support people and communities bravely battling the bushfires were added to on our Environmental Health Portal
  • Palliative and end of life care portal was added
  • The Australian Indigenous HealthInfoNet’s existing social and emotional wellbeing portal was expanded to encompass information that is based on the holistic meaning of social and emotional wellbeing for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people
  • The COVID portal was expanded to include vaccination information
  • Two young members joined the HealthInfoNet Advisory Board at the request of Advisory Board members
  • WA borders opened and face to face engagement commenced with participation in over 17 conferences, presentations and meetings around the country
  • September marked the 25 year anniversary milestone of the HealthInfoNet and production of a book celebrating the art on the site
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