Racial microaggressions and interculturality in remote Central Australian Aboriginal healthcare

Mary Wicks, Christine Hampshire, Jeannie Campbell, Louise Maple-Brown, Renae Kirkham

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Background: An epidemic of type 2 diabetes in remote Aboriginal people in Central Australia, contributes to high rates of morbidity and mortality. Remote non-Aboriginal Health Care Workers (HCW) and the Aboriginal people they serve inhabit a complex cultural interface. This study aimed to recognise racial microaggressions in the everyday discourse of HCWs. It proposes a model of interculturality for remote HCWs that avoids racialisation and essentialising of Aboriginal people’s identities and cultures. Methods: Semi-structured in-depth interviews were undertaken with HCWs from two Primary Health Care services in very remote Central Australia. Fourteen interviews were analysed from seven Remote Area Nurse, five Remote Medical Practitioners and two Aboriginal Health Practitioners. Discourse analysis was employed to explore racial microaggressions and power relations. NVivo software assisted in the thematic organisation of microaggressions according to a predefined taxonomy. Results: Seven microaggression themes were identified - racial categorization and sameness, assumptions about intelligence and competence, false colour blindness, criminality and dangerousness, reverse racism and hostility, treatment as second-class citizens and pathologizing culture. A model of interculturality for remote HCWs was based on concepts of the third space, deCentred hybrid identities and small culture formation on-the-go combined with a duty-conscious ethic, cultural safety and humility. Conclusions: Racial microaggressions are common in the discourse of remote HCWs. The model of interculturality proposed could improve intercultural communication and relationships between HCWs and Aboriginal people. This improved engagement is required to address the current diabetes epidemic in Central Australia.

Original languageEnglish
Article number103
Pages (from-to)1-12
Number of pages12
JournalInternational Journal for Equity in Health
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - Dec 2023


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