Conventional research practices in many contexts have been perceived as ineffective and disempowering. Hence, the National Empowerment Project used a Participatory Action Research (PAR) process that ‘gives voice’ to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples. The PAR process also enabled the research outcomes to be seen immediately at the community level, which is also central to the integrity of the National Empowerment Project.
Development of Aboriginal knowledges by Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people is fundamental to the National Empowerment Project. The usefulness of knowledge is a key characteristic of the Project, including findings from an Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples’ perspective so that practice and program development may be better informed.
'NEP used 5 Aboriginal & Torres Strait Islander specific
approaches to understanding and responding to local need.'
Self-determination is central to the provision of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander health services. Culturally valid understandings must shape the provision of services and must guide assessment care and management of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people’s health, particularly mental health issues.
2. COMMUNITY BASED APPROACH
The underlying principle of all community development and empowerment approaches is that only solutions driven from within a ‘risk community’ will ultimately be successful in reducing community-based risk conditions. Ensuring the community drives the process is the most important factor if community outcomes are to be achieved. Discussions of successful strategies implemented to address community distress and suicide have highlighted the absolute necessity for the community to go through its own process of locating and taking ownership of any problems and vulnerabilities, and seeking solutions from within. This is critical where the social determinants of community distress and suicide have historical roots, which have contributed to a sense of powerlessness at an individual, family and community level. Solutions brought in by outsiders cannot address the risk factors or harness the protective factors, which lie within each community and within the domains of cultural, social and emotional wellbeing.
3. HOLISTIC PERSPECTIVES
Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander health should be viewed in a holistic context that encompasses mental health, as well as physical, cultural and spiritual health. Culture, family and spirituality are central to well being. It must be recognised that Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples have great strengths, creativity and endurance and a deep understanding of the relationships between human beings and their environment. The centrality of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander identity, family and kinship must also be recognized.
4. ABORIGINAL AND TORRES STRAIT ISLANDER DIVERSITY
There is no single Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander group, but numerous groupings, languages, kinships, and communities, as well as ways of living. There is great diversity within the groups and also between Aboriginal people and Torres Strait Islander people. These differences need to be acknowledged and valued.
5. ACKNOWLEDGING A HISTORY OF COLONISATION
In Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Australia, there are concerns about research and research methodologies as continuing the process of colonisation in determining and owning knowledge about Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples. These concerns have highlighted how research is inextricably linked with European colonisation. Western knowledge, particularly scientific knowledge, played a role in oppressing Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples. Many Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander scholars propose that a central issue in contemporary times for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples is to challenge the dominant discourses about us and to reclaim Indigenous cultural knowledge and identity. It is important that Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander researchers/scholars engage in producing cultural knowledge with local groups in appropriate ways, as this furthers cultural reclamation and Indigenous self-determination.