Bridging the cultural divide

Research Officer Ros Malay with volunteer22

Research Officer Ros Malay with volunteer

A new, culturally appropriate and sensitive depression screening tool has been developed for older Aboriginal Australian’s in remote areas to identify and treat the all too common and undiagnosed mental illness. 

Dubbed the Kimberley Indigenous Cognitive Assessment of Depression (KICA-Dep) after where it was developed, KICA-Dep was altered from the commonly used depression risk assessment tool, Patient Health Questionnaire (PHQ-9).

“We have adapted this tool by re-wording and translating some of the questions to align with Indigenous cultural norms.  We then validated the instrument amongst remote living Indigenous communities,” says Professor Leon Flicker of the University of Western Australia.

Professor Flicker, who is the director at the Western Australian Centre for Health Ageing (WACHA), was instrumental in developing the tool and says that they’re “reasonably confident” the tool will accurately identify depression.

“We made sure that it worked by getting people who had depression or didn’t have depression to fill in the tool, and then we checked both groups with a consultant psychiatrist to make sure their results reflected whether they did or didn’t have depression,” he says.

KICA-Dep is a sub-project of the ‘Kimberley Healthy Ageing Project’. It was endorsed via a cross-sectional survey of 300 men and women aged 46 – 89 years from six remote Indigenous communities in the Kimberley.

The 11 linguistic and culturally sensitive items of the KICA-Dep scale were derived from the signs and symptoms required to establish the diagnosis of a depressive episode according to the commonly used psychiatric assessment tools (DSM-IV-TR and ICD-10 criteria), and their frequency was rated on a 4-point scale ranging from “never” to “all the time”.

University of Western Australia’s Professor Osvaldo Almeida was a driving force behind the tool. He too is confident that it will prove useful in diagnosing depression.

“The KICA-Dep has robust psychometric properties and can be used with confidence as a screening tool for depression among older Indigenous Australians,” says Professor Almeida.

“We anticipate that this tool will be very useful to medical professionals and others who work with remote Aboriginal Australians and have made the tool freely available and at no charge via our website”.

To take the questionnaire, you can CLICK HERE.

For more information about depression, symptoms, treatment and ways to help yourself and others, head to

If you need counselling or need urgent help please phone Lifeline on 13 11 14.

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