Enhance Walkabout

A pilot project to improve sexual health engagement among young Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people

The challenge

Aboriginal and/or Torres Strait Islander communities continue to experience a disproportionate burden of sexually transmissible infections (STIs) and blood borne viruses (BBVs). These infections, including chlamydia, gonorrhoea and syphilis are readily treatable with antibiotics, however there are often delays in diagnosis and treatment. This is particularly so for young people in regional and remote settings, who experience very high levels of these infections. Innovative interventions are required to improve STI and BBV testing coverage and ultimately reduce prevalence.

The project

This project builds on an existing service, Walkabout Barber/Beauty, to raise awareness and knowledge of sexual health in the context of haircuts and beauty services in Ceduna, South Australia in partnership with Yadu Health Aboriginal Corporation. Members of the community will be offered the opportunity to access either a free haircut or beauty service provided by Walkabout Barber enterprise, as well as attend a yarning circle workshop around sexual health, suicide prevention and access to Yadu Health services, conducted by Mr Dowd, (a trained trauma and recovery specialist) as well as Aboriginal Peer Connectors (one male and one female) from within the community employed by Yadu Health to engage and support community in a culturally safe way. 

The method

Using a novel mixed methods framework, we will examine several outcomes of interest, including feasibility of implementation, utilisation and acceptability by young people, number of young people returning to health services after a period of disengagement, number of STI tests and number of clients attending in the target age group.

The qualitative component of the study has two aims:

  1. To understand perceptions (including acceptability) of point-of-care STI testing for young people; and
  2. To understand the personal experiences of engaging with the Walkabout Barber program (including the Enhanced STI model) and personal and community impacts of Walkabout.

The research is being undertaken in partnership with Yadu Health services and the communities they support.

The results

Through co-design, collaboration and implementation with the Ceduna community and health service we will increase local Aboriginal workforce capacity in Yadu Health Aboriginal Corporation (Peer Connectors), improve STI knowledge (community engagement with Walkabout), increase STI testing and treatment (community level coverage to reduce prevalence) and build partnerships and optimise referral pathways for sexual and mental health for the community.

The co-designed comprehensive formal evaluation of the Enhanced Walkabout will provide evidence for policy and program design of a novel approach to sexual health for young Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people. Combining a focus on young people’s experiences of Walkabout and sexual and mental health, as well as community perspectives, and observations from Walkabout staff, will provide evidence of a more holistic approach to two areas of national priority for Aboriginal health. 

The impact

Health services will benefit from gaining further knowledge on strategies to improve access to the health service for young people. Young Aboriginal people will benefit from access to a free haircut/beauty treatment, engagement with peer connectors about topics of relevance to them, development of skills and confidence in their health seeking behaviours and have greater access to STI testing services including point of care testing, and in turn detection and cure of more STIs.

Project collaborators
  • Yadu Health Aboriginal Corporation
  • Walkabout Barber/Beauty enterprise
Project funding
  • Australian Government Department of Health
  • Aboriginal Health Research Ethics Committee (AHREC) - a sub-committee of the Aboriginal Health Council of South Australia Inc.