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Review Article

Culture at the centre of community based aged care in a remote Australian Indigenous setting: a case study of the development of Yuendumu Old People’s Programme

Submitted: 2 January 2010
Revised: 25 June 2010
Published: 26 October 2010

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Author(s) : Smith K, Grundy JJ, Nelson HJ.

Kay SmithHarry Nelson

Citation: Smith K, Grundy JJ, Nelson HJ.  Culture at the centre of community based aged care in a remote Australian Indigenous setting: a case study of the development of Yuendumu Old People’s Programme. Rural and Remote Health (Internet) 2010; 10: 1422. Available: (Accessed 20 October 2017)


Introduction:  Yuendumu is a Warlpiri Aboriginal community 300 km north west of Alice Springs in Central Australia. Since emerging from the welfare period in the early 1970s, a range of services have evolved with the aim of developing a comprehensive community based aged care service. In 2000 Mampu Maninja-kurlangu Jarlu Patu-ku Aboriginal Corporation (Yuendumu Old Peoples Programme; YOPP) commenced operation to manage the developing services. This case study aims to describe, from the analytic standpoint of community control and cultural comfort, the main features of the ‘Family Model of Care’, which underpins the operations of the service and YOPP management processes.
Methods:  Data were mostly generated from participant observation by the authors in the development and management of YOPP between 1993 and 2009. A literature review of Indigenous history and public health in Central Australia was also undertaken, which was supplemented by a review of Programme documentation, including evaluations, needs assessments and annual reports.
Results:  The design and operations of YOPP are embodied in a documented ‘Family Model of Care’ which provides important lessons for the provision of aged care in a cross-cultural context. According to the concepts ‘community control’ and ‘cultural comfort’ outlined in this article, mainstream services can function in a complementary and supportive manner with professional services being accountable and responsive to a local management system that is governed by the structures and norms of community tradition.
Conclusions:  The notions of ‘cultural comfort’ and ‘community control’ as operating principles have enabled YOPP to continue under the management of local people, sustain core cultural strengths and values, and meet the needs for increased quality of care for the aged in Yuendumu. This model of care emphasizes and recognizes paradigms of mutual competence between traditional and mainstream human service culture, and offers important lessons for improvement to the quality of aged care in remote Indigenous communities in Australia and elsewhere.

Key words:  aged care, Australia, culture and health, Indigenous health.

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