Northern Territory landscape
Centres and institutes_

Against the odds: Wellbeing amongst Indigenous youth in the Northern Territory

Understanding Indigenous wellbeing
By using big data, local knowledge, advanced analytical techniques and bringing experts from a wide range of disciplines, we discover how some children beat the odds.

We are an interdisciplinary team of internationally recognised scholars in the fields of economics, psychology, and public health. Against the Odds is a project funded by the National Health and Medical Research Council (2019-2023), focusing on social, economic and health outcomes of Indigenous children. We aim to discover how some Indigenous youth beat the odds in the presence of poverty, health problems and other risk factors, to lead balanced and fulfilling lives. 

Our approach is to use big data, local knowledge, advanced analytical techniques and experts from a wide range of disciplines. We will also use linked administrative data to develop an index of Indigenous youths' social and emotional wellbeing. The dataset is an extended version of the Northern Territory Data Linkage Project, which was created using new, ethical data linkage methods. Researchers will also carry out focus groups, interviews and surveys with young people and community leaders to collect first-hand information.

We understand that there a limit to what numbers can explain. An essential part of the research project is to include the voices of Indigenous youth and communities. It is only by deep listening to Indigenous peoples’, appreciating their culture and connectedness to land, that social and emotional wellbeing can be understood.

The project offers a unique opportunity for early-career Indigenous researchers to work with internationally recognised scholars in the fields of economics, psychology and public health, and to directly influence public policy at the highest levels. Increased Indigenous representation, particularly in the field of economics, will help to create more meaningful policy and increase the cultural understanding of non-Indigenous researchers. 

Our people

  • Professor Stefanie Schurer

Stefanie Schurer leads the Economics of Human Development research node at the Charles Perkins Centre at the University of Sydney. Professor Schurer is an internationally recognised expert in development economics and has been investigating the wellbeing of children in the Northern Territory since 2014. 

  • Professor Lisa Cameron

Lisa Cameron is a Professorial Fellow at the Melbourne Institute of Applied Economics and Social Research. She is an internationally recognised expert working in the area of disadvantage and wellbeing and behavioural economics and has extensive experience using large quantitative data sets and undertaking field research.

  • Professor Guyonne Kalb

Guyonne Kalb is a Professorial Fellow at the Melbourne Institute of Applied Economics and Social Research, where she is the Director of the Labour Economics and Social Policy Program. Professor Kalbhas has considerable expertise in household and family economics, labour economics, and social policy issues, including those related to childcare and child development.

  • Dr Peter Shaw

Peter Shaw is an expert in the development of efficient, exact pattern-search techniques and their application in the analysis of clinical data. These algorithms have now been applied in cross-disciplinary research in fields including child-health bioinformatics, econometrics, prevention of human trafficking and the analysis of social networking.


  • Professor Pat Dudgeon

Pat Dudgeon is a Bardi woman from the Kimberley in Western Australia. Professor Dudgeon was the first Aboriginal psychologist to graduate in Australia and has played many roles in research and in public policy. Currently, she is a Fellow of the Australian Psychological Society, a Research Fellow in the School of Indigenous Studies at the University of WA, and has been a Commissioner for the National Mental Health Commission. Throughout her career, Professor Dudgeon has been instrumental in placing Indigenous mental health on the national policy agenda.

  • Professor Steven Guthridge

Steven Guthridge is a public health physician and medical epidemiologist, and a Professor at the Menzies School of Health Research. Professor Guthridge has extensive experience working in Indigenous health and health research, and has been closely involved in the development of data linkage capacity in the NT.

  • Ms Olga Havnen

Olga Havnen is of Western Arrernte descent, and grew up in Tennant Creek. She is a prominent Aboriginal leader, advocate and activist in the Northern Territory of Australia, and has held a range of senior public and non-government sector roles in her long career in Indigenous Affairs. She is currently the Chief Executive Officer of the Danila Dilba Health Service in Darwin, an Aboriginal Community Controlled Health Service.

  • Ms Tanja Hirvonen

Tanja Hirvonen is an Indigenous clinical psychologist who specialises in Aboriginal mental health, social and emotional wellbeing, health professionals’ self-care and trauma. Ms Hirvonen is currently employed at the Centre for Remote Health – Mental Health Academic, where she is responsible for research collaborations and promoting mental health education and understandings in remote areas.



  • National Health and Medical Research Council 
  • Menzies School of Health Research
  • Australian Psychological Society
  • Melbourne Institute of Applied Economics and Social Research
  • Danila Dilba Health Service
  • Centre for Remote Health



Professor Stefanie Schurer