It all comes down to ticking a box: Collecting Aboriginal identification in a 30-year longitudinal health study

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Abstract

This paper explores the collection of Aboriginal identification within a longitudinal health study that has continued though decades of socio-political change. The Mater - University of Queensland Study of Pregnancy is a birth cohort study that commenced in Brisbane in the early 1980s. Until 2014 it relied on mother reported race-based categories at baseline to determine Indigenous status. Thirty study-children (now adults) who were originally identified as having a parent who was an Australian Aborigine' were followed up 30 years later. Only 15 of this group self-identified as Aboriginal and/or Torres Strait Islander. Considering recent studies have shown Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people are increasingly more likely to self-identify as such, an archival investigation of the original questionnaires was undertaken to check for systematic miscodes. Handwritten markings on the original questionnaires showed that group affiliation cannot always be easily classified into imprecise race-based categories. To do so ignores the reality and complexities of a lived cultural identity, including multiple ethnicities or ancestries. This paper takes a sociological approach to explore some of the difficulties in attempting to capture ethnic identification in administrative datasets.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)33-45
Number of pages13
JournalAustralian Aboriginal Studies
Volume2015
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - 2015
Externally publishedYes

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