About The Gudaga Study

The Gudaga story began in 1997. At that time researchers from the University of NSW yarned with Aboriginal health workers from the Tharawal Aboriginal Corporation about the need for appropriate outreach services for their mothers and babies.

The idea of an Aboriginal Home Visiting Service (AHVS) was discussed. Seed funding was subsequently secured through the Ingham Foundation* to assess the feasibility of a such a service. The AHVS began in 2000 with limited funding. Securing ongoing funding required a better understanding of the needs of the region’s Aboriginal children and their mothers.

University of NSW researchers based at the Centre for Health Equity Training Research and Evaluation (CHETRE), in collaboration with the local Aboriginal community, successfully applied for funding from the National Health and Medical Research Council (NHMRC) to establish the Gudaga Study for a 12 month period. The study began in late 2005 and successfully engaged the local Aboriginal community, particularly the mothers. ubsequent NHMRC funding was secured enabling the study to continue until 2012.

The word ‘Gudaga’ means ‘healthy baby’ in the local Tharawal language. The choice of this word inspired the aims and objectives of the Study.

The Gudaga Study is a longitudinal study of Aboriginal infants and children in the Campbelltown region. The cohort was drawn from a near complete enumeration of Aboriginal infants born in the region. The Study is unique in its focus on an urban population on the east coast of Australia.

The Study primarily describes the health, development and service use of Aboriginal infants and children from birth to five years.

The Study aims to describe:

  • antenatal care and birthoutcomes for mothers ofAboriginal infants;
  • growth and developmental progress;
  • patterns of illness and injury;
  • risk and protective factors; and
  • patterns of health and children’s services use.

In addition, we ask mothers about the aspirations they have for their children and any health and development concerns.

All Aboriginal infants born at Campbelltown Hospital between October 2005 and May 2007 were invited to participate in the Study.

Mothers and their Aboriginal infants were identified on the maternity ward using a brief survey that was administered by the Aboriginal project officer. Infants were eligible to be part of the Study if either their mother or father were Aboriginal.

Informed written consent was sought from those mothers who chose to be part of the Study.

The Study's Defining Features

The Gudaga Study has developed a number of defining features. These include:

  • a leadership team made up of both Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal academics and health providers;
  • systematic identification of all Aboriginal babies born in the local area;
  • collecting data in a way that is sensitive and respectful to any concerns our mothers may have;
  • the use of methods that are inclusive, flexible and adaptable to the specific needs of our mothers and children;and
  • standardised instruments that are appropriate for, and acceptable to, the community.

We support these features by:

  • using Aboriginal language and art. Our logo was designed by a local Aboriginal woman and reflects the mother and child connection;
  • employing project officers from the local Aboriginal community;
  • giving all mothers a small gift as a token of our appreciation;
  • applying multiple strategies to maintain engagement of our mothers and carers; and
  • using diverse technologies (such as Facebook and SMS messaging) to stay connected with our mothers and carers.

These features resulted in a near complete enumeration of Aboriginal babies born during the study’s recruitment period and a very high retention rate at age three years.