Connecting the health of country with the health of people: Application of “caring for country” in improving the social and emotional well-being of Indigenous people in Australia and New Zealand

Elsevier, The Lancet Regional Health - Western Pacific, Volume 31, February 2023
Fatima Y., Liu Y., Cleary A., Dean J., Smith V., King S. et al.
Emerging evidence from the western literature suggests an increasing focus on applying nature-based interventions for mental health improvements. However, in Indigenous communities, caring for country has always been central to the Indigenous way of life. Knowing that nature-based interventions effectively improve mental health outcomes, this review collated evidence on the application of caring for country in improving social and emotional well-being (SEWB) of Indigenous peoples in Australia and New Zealand. Three studies from Australia and one from New Zealand, explored the role of country or whenua (land) in the lives of Indigenous people. Participation in caring-for country activities was associated with lower levels of psychological distress and strengthened guardianship relationship with country, which positively affected SEWB. This systematic review offers preliminary evidence on the role of caring for country activities in improving the SEWB of Indigenous peoples and highlights the need for strengths-based approaches to improve the SEWB of Indigenous peoples. Funding: None.