School of Population Health

Ironbark trial: healthy ageing for older Aboriginal people

Ironbark logo

Our project is called the “Ironbark trial: healthy ageing for older Aboriginal people.”  The project was initially named after the Ironbark tree because its native to Australia, evokes images of old, strong, trees standing tall and that is what we want to see our old people doing. Standing tall and strong as they age.

The art work and logo was done by Kylie Cassidy, a Wiradjuri artist from the central coast.  Kylie describes the artwork: “The symbols I have used in the tree are representing land and water. The tree symbolises strength and growth, the root system symbolises life and staying grounded. Around the tree are dreaming symbols representing our people and our cultural connection.”

Focus of the research

The Ironbark trial is a cluster randomised control trial comparing the health outcomes of the Ironbark: Standing Strong & Tall program (a weekly exercise and yarning circle) to the Ironbark: Healthy Community program (a weekly social program) among groups of Aboriginal people aged 45 years and older.
The research includes funding local Aboriginal services to deliver one of the programs for 10 – 15 Aboriginal people for 12 months.  We aim to recruit 60 services and around 600 participants (both men and women) into the trial over the next 4 years.  We are working with collaborators in NSW, SA and WA.

There is a nested evaluation to determine acceptability of the Ironbark: Standing Strong and Tall program to participants, and an economic analysis.  We envisage the research will have direct policy and program benefits for Aboriginal specific falls prevention programs, and wellbeing programs for older Aboriginal people.

Importance of the research

This research is building on the Ironbark: Standing Strong and Tall project conducted in 2015 – 2016.  This project identified a lack of evidence falls prevention and other healthy ageing programs for older Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people in Australia. Given that the profile of ageing among Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people includes earlier onset, barriers to health care and the lack of robust evidence, there is a critical need for the development of specific, targeted and rigorously-evaluated programs to meet Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people’s unique needs.  

What do you hope to achieve?

We hope that this research project demonstrates the health and economic benefits of Aboriginal led and community delivered programs for older Aboriginal people.

Funders and timing

We are now actively recruiting Aboriginal organisations to participate in the project.  Participating sites will be funded to support their involvement, provided training on program delivery, have opportunities to develop their research capacity, and be involved in the governance of this research.  We are looking for services that have existing groups who might want to be involved, and also services that would like to start a group.  

This project was funded by the NHMRC, from 2018 – 2022.

Further details

See further details in Overview of Ironbark Study.

For further information about the Ironbark study, please visit our website: