March 25th, 2015
The theme this week is Australia, and although there are many wonderful things to learn about in the Australian context, there are also difficult issues related to the terrible treatment of indigenous people in the country’s past. Many researchers today are taking a critical look at these issues, addressing the questions about the current state and future of indigenous people and all aspects of their culture.
At the Center for Labour Market Research at Curtin University, researchers recently conducted and analyzed a series of interviews with parents or main care givers from Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander families. Their goal was to identify the links between indigenous culture and well-being. To do this they asked a series of questions related to their child’s household or family situation, health and development. Their two overarching questions were: ‘What is it about Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander culture that will help your child to grow up strong?’ and ‘Apart from health and happiness what do you want for your child?’
The resulting answers contained a short list of dominant themes, which were identified and mapped by the researchers: culture, strength, family, aboriginal, proud, sense, aboriginal, understanding. Among other conclusions that can be summarized based on these themes, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander families want their children to grow up with full knowledge of where they come from, strong enough to pursue their dreams, proud of their culture, and connected to their family. Many parents talked about their strong desire that their children have a better life than they themselves have had. They see the way to accomplish this as a combination of being strong and proud, while also getting a full education and finding good employment.
This study is, as researchers fully admit, only a small part of a larger body of work to come. But the initial answers showed them one especially important fact about today’s indigenous families of Australia – they want their children to have success and a good life, and they feel the key to this is strong knowledge of their culture and its connection (today as well as in the traumatic past) to the western cultural context. The question they ask is whether or not the government’s current policies seeking to “close the gap” take into account these potential sources of strength and well-being for Aboriginal and Torres Strait people.
Colquhoun, Simon and Dockery, & Alfred Michael (2012). The link between Indigenous culture and wellbeing: Qualitative evidence for Australian Aboriginal peoples CLMR DISCUSSION PAPER SERIES 2012/01