Oral Presentation Lowitja Institute International Indigenous Health and Wellbeing Conference 2016

Humility, inquisitiveness and openness: Key attributes for meaningful engagement with Aboriginal (Nyoongar) people (#88)

Michael Wright 1 , Irene McNamara 2 , Albert McNamara 2 , Adrian Munro 3 , Margaret O'Connell 4 , Tanya Jones 4
  1. National Drug Research Institute, Curtin University, Perth, WA, Australia
  2. Elder, Aboriginal community member, Perth, WA, Australia
  3. Richmond Wellbeing , Perth, WA, Australia
  4. Telethon Kids Institute , Perth, WA, Australia

The Looking Forward Project is a participatory action research project aimed at investigating the serious disconnection between mental health and drug and alcohol service providers and Nyoongar families living in the Perth metropolitan area. Our findings have shown that the lack of meaningful connection and engagement between service providers and Nyoongar families is predominantly due to the lack of understanding by non-Aboriginal people of the differences in social relationships. This lack of understanding is primarily due to limited knowledge of an Aboriginal worldview and how it shapes ways of being, knowing and doing. Non-Aboriginal people struggle to understand an Aboriginal worldview and how it shapes social relationships in kin-based societies. Relationships in kin-based societies are both inclusive and reciprocal. Communication and developing conditions for meaningful relationships is key to understanding an Aboriginal worldview and developing new ways of working together to achieve better health outcomes.

In this presentation, delivered by researchers, Nyoongar Elders and service staff, we discuss key learnings from the project and how service providers have developed a better understanding of a Nyoongar worldview. Nyoongar Elders were recruited to the study to work in partnership with mainstream mental health and drug and alcohol service providers to educate staff on a Nyoongar worldview. The Elders are cultural consultants and teachers for senior management and practitioners, educating staff to better understand and recognise the cultural and spiritual needs of Aboriginal clients and their families. This collaboration is central to changing behaviour in organisations. Conference participants will hear how the key attributes of humility, inquisitiveness, openness and willingness to learn and change are essential qualities in non-Aboriginal people for building and sustaining better relationships with Aboriginal people.

  1. Wright, M, O’Connell, M, Jones, T, Walley, R and Roarty, L. 2015. Looking Forward Aboriginal Mental Health Project: Final Report. December. Telethon Kids Institute, Subiaco, Western Australia.
  2. Wright, M & O’Connell, M. 2015. Negotiating the right path: effecting change in the provision of healthcare. Action Learning, Action Research Journal, 21(1), 108-123.
  3. Wright, M, Culbong, M, O’Connell, M, Jones, T and Ford, D. 2013. Weaving the narratives of relationship in community participatory research. New Community Quarterly (43) Borderlands Cooperative, Hawthorn Vic, 8-14.
  4. Wright M, Lin A and O'Connell M. 2016. Humility, inquisitiveness, and openness: key attributes for meaningful engagement with Nyoongar people, Advances in Mental Health, DOI: 10.080/18387357.2016.1173516.
  5. Wright M, Culbong M, O'Connell M, Jones T & Ford D. 2013. Making a difference: Engaging both hearts and minds in research practice. Action Learning Action Research Journal. 19(1) 36-61.