Date of Award


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (College of Medicine)

Schools and Centres


First Supervisor

Professor David Paul

Second Supervisor

Adjunct Professor Jeanette Ward

Third Supervisor

Dr Melissa Marshall


In the remote Kimberley region of North Western Australia, tuberculosis (TB) and leprosy continue to affect a small number of Aboriginal people, despite historical efforts to eliminate either disease. Treatment, predominantly antibiotic therapy, is a principal therapeutic intervention used to cure TB and leprosy and halt infection transmission. Decisions made around treatment therefore impact not only the individual person affected, but also their families and communities. The well-worn models of Directly Observed Therapy (DOT) and case management are used nationally to assist treatment continuity and completion. Neither model has been substantiated for cultural appropriateness nor for meeting the specific needs of Aboriginal people. Given the important role of treatment, this thesis uses decolonial theory to critically examine how culturally secure and person-centred care practice could be better incorporated into the current treatment model of care used in the Kimberley region for Aboriginal persons affected by TB or leprosy. To achieve this, qualitative methods were employed to explore the lived experience of Aboriginal persons affected by either disease, as well as community members and Health Care Workers involved in care. In addition, archival research of historical documents relating to treatment was conducted. The findings of this research revealed deeper narratives about medication safety concerns, the importance of family history knowledge for early treatment intervention, and challenges relating to integrating TB and leprosy management into primary health care due to competing priorities of more prevalent chronic diseases. Health care relationships were found to play a key role in optimising treatment. However, gaps and inconsistences were identified within these relationships in the areas of two-way trust, communicating importance and consequences of treatment, providing feedback, shared treatment decision-making, and the provision of culturally respectful support. Family relationships and connection to culture were also significant for psychosocial support. Understanding the history of TB and leprosy treatment specific to the region was found to be an integral part of understanding contemporary treatment models and in identifying ongoing colonising within the way health care services for the treatment of TB and leprosy are delivered. Using these findings, a novel treatment model of care is presented. This offers theoretical and practical strategies to re-think and apply culturally responsive approaches to optimising treatment for Aboriginal persons affected by TB or leprosy. This has the potential benefit of improved wellbeing and elimination of disease for current and future generations.

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