Advocating for Equity, Collaboration and Culturally secure Osteoarthritis care for Aboriginal Australians

We acknowledge the Traditional Custodians of the land on which we all live and work.

We recognise that Aboriginal and/or Torres Strait Islander Peoples have been custodians of this land for thousands of years, and we acknowledge their continuing connection to land, waters and community.

We pay our deepest respects to them and their cultures; and to their Elders both past, present and emerging.



ECCO was inspired by a group of clinicians and service providers in WA who noticed the impact that osteoarthritis was having on health and wellbeing in the regional and remote Aboriginal communities in which they lived and worked. Together with a team of researchers, the group conducted a systematic review to better understand the landscape of osteoarthritis in the wider Aboriginal community.

The outcomes revealed osteoarthritis to be an unmet health need with a mismatch between the burden of osteoarthritis and access to care on a national scale.  Bringing together the cultural expertise of the WA group and the osteoarthritis expertise of OPUS, ECCO was created to address this mismatch though consumer-led research prioritising Aboriginal voices.

healing scar tree

Ngarradjarranun Gorong Darrang

About the


Uncle Mick Harding tells of a scar tree with diamonds inside the scar that represent our Liwik or Ancestors. Our Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities around Australia are represented by the designs alongside both sides of the scar and along the limbs of the tree.

The five large gum leaves on the bottom limbs represent the five management journey streams of OPUS. Two sections of wavy lines at the top and bottom of the scar, represent the journey of OPUS and how its research has a ripple effect that effects positive change within our communities

About the


Mick Harding is a Taungwurrung Elder and belongs to the Yowong-Illam-Baluk clan (Mansfield Region) of the Taungwurrung people. He lives with his family in the rolling foothills of Gippsland’s Strzelecki ranges, and is an active member of the Taungwurrung, local and Victorian Indigenous communities. Mick draws his inspiration from the compelling legends of his people, and weaves the images of those legends into each of his artworks.



  • Lin I, Choong P, Coffin J and Bunzli S. (2020) The University of Western Australia, Faculty of Health and Medical Sciences Research Grant for “Phase 1 of Enhancing Equity, Collaboration and Culturally secure Osteoarthritis care for Aboriginal Australians (ECCO)” ($40,000).
  • Lin I, Bunzli S, Dowsey M, Choong P (2020) Arthritis & Osteoporosis WA for “Develop culturally appropriate arthritis information and education resources that address the needs of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander (ATSI) peoples” ($297,051 – $87,000 to the ECCO program).
  • Bunzli, S (2020). St Vincent’s Hospital Melbourne Research Endowment Fund. Staying Moving, Staying Strong. Developing culturally appropriate health resources for Aboriginal Australians with osteoarthritis. ($19,969).
  • O’Brien, P, Shadbolt C, Rele S, Choong, A, Choong E, Davaris M, Gould, D. (2020). Enhancing the Cultural Security of the Student Orthopaedic and Musculoskeletal Association. GSA Special Grants. ($2000).
  • O’Brien, P, Bunzli, S., Dowsey, M., Lin, I. & Choong, P. (2019). St. Vincent’s Health Australia Inclusive Health Fund. The OPUS Community Reference Group for Enhancing Equity, Collaboration and Culturally secure Osteoarthritis Care for Aboriginal Australians. ($16,045).
  • Gunatillake, T, Choong, P, Garvey, G, (2019). St Vincent’s Hospital Melbourne Research Endowment Fund. The ‘in-patient’ study: exploring the knowledge and understanding of osteoarthritis in Aboriginal and/or Torres Strait Islander patients admitted at SVHM. ($16,938).
  • Bunzli, S (2018). St Vincent’s Hospital Melbourne Research Endowment Fund. Health-related quality of life in Aboriginal Australians with osteoarthritis. ($19,992).



The ECCO Framework guides our team and our mission.

Community reference group

In this project, we yarn with key informants from Aboriginal health services and organisations, and the wider community to explore how we can best set up a community reference group. The outcome of these yarns will be an established and representative Aboriginal community reference group that will provide input and guidance for all ECCO related research activities.

Inpatient Project

This project aims to explore the beliefs of Aboriginal patients admitted to St Vincent’s Hospital Melbourne. We want to learn about (any) joint pain they experience and explore their pain management and coping mechanisms.

Community osteoarthritis project

This project has two main parts. First, to explore the awareness of osteoarthritis in Aboriginal community groups through focus groups and yarning circles and second; to explore the impact of joint pain on the health and wellbeing of Aboriginal people who experience osteoarthritis in Victoria

Aboriginal arthritis resources project

This project is funded by the Commonwealth Government of Australia and Arthritis Australia, and enables ECCO to partner with Arthritis and Osteoporosis WA. Together, the team will develop culturally appropriate health information resources for Aboriginal people with osteoarthritis, rheumatoid arthritis and lupus that can be used as part of self-management, or as stand-alone consumer information resources.



chief investigator

A/Prof Michelle Dowsey

chief investigator

prof peter choong

Chief investigator

dr samantha bunzli

partnering chief investigator

dr ivan lin

research assistant

Naz Rind

research assistant

Ryan Prehn

Research student

Penny O'Brien

Research student

Brooke Conley

partner collaborator

dr Jonathan Bullen

partner collaborator

prof juli coffin

partner collaborator

Prof Dawn Bessarab

partner collaborator

prof gail garvey

partner collaborator

toni mason

get in touch

with us

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Get in touch with us if you want to hear more about the work we do and see how you can get involved. We are also here to help you, so if you think we can lend a helping hand, email us below!