Talking back to the research: Indigenous wellbeing and resilience narratives from urban Australia

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    Resilience is instrumental in understanding the wellbeing of Indigenous peoples in colonised countries. However, Indigenous health research in Australia is dominated by investigator-driven deficit-based descriptive quantitative studies that highlight persistent health disparities compared to non-Indigenous Australians. Such studies can limit capacity for Indigenous people to “talk back” to the research process with their own perspectives of wellbeing and resilience. A capability approach can elicit self-determining definitions of wellbeing. This study presents findings from qualitative life history interviews of the self-defined health trajectories from a group of 11 Indigenous adults living in an Australian urban setting. In contrast to the prevailing deficit discourse, interviewees spoke about their strength and resilience. Common determinants of health such as of socioeconomic disadvantage, family dysfunction, stress, problematic alcohol use and mental illness became transformed into narratives of never being without, the opportunity for upwards social mobility, the importance of family as positive role models and social support, abstinence, learning from past experiences and coping through challenges. History context, intergenerational trauma and racism impacted wellbeing. Findings support affirmative action initiatives to reduce socioeconomic disadvantage to improve wellbeing. Narrative approaches provide contextualisation to how Indigenous people navigate through significant life events to maintain wellbeing.
    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)423-445
    Number of pages24
    JournalJournal of Human Development and Capabilities
    Issue number3
    Early online date12 Apr 2021
    Publication statusPublished - 2021


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