Social and Emotional Wellbeing

Definition of Aboriginal Social
and Emotional Wellbeing

Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander social and emotional wellbeing (SEWB) is a complex, multidimensional concept encompassing connections to land, culture, spirituality, ancestry, family, and community (Social Health Reference Group, 2004). Aboriginal SEWB is situated within a framework that acknowledges Aboriginal Australian world-views and expressions of culture, including the individual self, family, kin, community, traditional lands, ancestors, and the spiritual dimensions of existence (Dudgeon, Schultz, Hart, & Kelly, 2014).1
The Aboriginal concept of ‘healing’ is an inclusive term that enables mental health to be recognised as part of a holistic and interconnected Aboriginal view of health. The concept of healing embraces social, emotional, physical, cultural, and spiritual dimensions of health and wellbeing.
1 Dudgeon, Pat & Walker, Roz. (2015). Decolonising Australian Psychology: Discourses, Strategies, and Practice. Journal of Social and Political Psychology. 3. 276-297. 10.5964/jspp.v3i1.126.

The Social and Emotional Wellbeing Wheel

The Social and Emotional Wellbeing Wheel represents holistic healing and includes protective factors that support good mental health for Aboriginal Communities.

These factors include connection to:


Mind and emotions

Family and kinship




Spirit, spirituality, and ancestors.

The outer wheel speaks to how these factors interact with social, historical, and political determinants of health and wellbeing, and the importance of each element in keeping well.

These determinants of health and wellbeing are defined as:

Social determinants – the impact of poverty, unemployment, housing, educational attainment, and racial discrimination.

Historical determinants – the historical context of colonisation and its legacy. The impact of past government policies and the extent of historical oppression and cultural displacement.

Political determinants – the unresolved issues of land, control of resources, cultural security, and the rights of self-determination and sovereignty.

The SEWB wheel illustrates an interconnected relationship between the SEWB of individuals, families and Communities that is shaped by connection to the body, mind and emotions, family kinship, community, culture, land and spirituality. The disruption of these connections can result in poorer SEWB in Aboriginal people and their Communities. The SEWB wheel instils a strength-based approach to mental health care and clinical practice through the restoration and strengthening of these connections for an individual’s healing journey.

A SEWB strength-based approach considers the social determinants of an Aboriginal person’s wellbeing. A SEWB support team consists of Alcohol and Other Drugs (AOD) support, Bringing Them Home workers, Link-up workers, Stolen Generation workers and Koori Mental Health Liaison Officers that provide wrap around support to an individuals healing journey.