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Sexual behaviour, drug use and health service use by young Noongar people in Western Australia: a snapshot

Robyn Williams A , Chris Lawrence B , Edward Wilkes C E , Maurice Shipp C , Barbara Henry A , Sandra Eades B , Bradley Mathers D , John Kaldor D , Lisa Maher D and Dennis Gray C
+ Author Affiliations
- Author Affiliations

A Derbarl Yerrigan Aboriginal Health Service, 156 Wittenoom Street, East Perth, WA 6004, Australia.

B The George Institute for Global Health, PO Box M201, Missenden Road, Sydney, NSW 2050, Australia and Sydney Medical School, The University of Sydney, Sydney, NSW 2006, Australia.

C National Drug Research Institute, Curtin University, GPO Box U1987, Perth, WA 6845, Australia.

D Kirby Institute for Infection and Immunity in Society, University of NSW, Sydney, NSW 2052, Australia.

E Corresponding author. Email:

Sexual Health 12(3) 188-193
Submitted: 21 February 2014  Accepted: 3 October 2014   Published: 15 December 2014


Background: This study aimed to describe sexual health behaviour, alcohol and other drug use, and health service use among young Noongar people in the south-west of Western Australia. Method: A cross-sectional survey was undertaken among a sample of 244 Noongar people aged 16-30 years. Results: The sample was more disadvantaged than the wider Noongar population. Sexual activity was initiated at a young age, 18% had two or more casual sex partners in the previous 12 months, with men more likely to have done so than women (23% vs 14%). Condoms were always or often carried by 57% of men and 37% of women, and 36% of men and 23% of women reported condom use at last sex with a casual partner. Lifetime sexually transmissible infection diagnosis was 14%. Forty percent currently smoked tobacco and 25% reported risky alcohol consumption on a weekly and 7% on an almost daily basis. Cannabis was used by 37%, 12% used drugs in addition to cannabis and 11% reported recently injecting drugs. In the previous 12 months, 66% had a health check and 31% were tested for HIV or sexually transmissible infections. Additionally, 25% sought advice or assistance for mental health or alcohol and other drug issues. Discussion: Although some respondents engaged in risky sexual behaviour, alcohol and other drug use or both, most did not. Particularly encouraging was the engagement of respondents with the health care system, especially among those engaging in risky behaviours. The results confound negative stereotypes of Aboriginal people and demonstrate a level of resilience among respondents.

Additional keywords: Aboriginal, condoms, Indigenous, sexual health, youth.


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