A means to an end
: Aboriginal hygiene and environmental health worker programs in the Northern Territory from 1951 to 1997

  • Diane Judith Clark

    Student thesis: Doctor of Philosophy (PhD) - CDU


    At a time when health professionals struggle to address the severely inadequate environmental conditions which are reflected in the poor health of Aboriginal peoples from remote communities, this study seeks to explore an Aboriginal environmental health worker training program designed to address these issues. Although the study focuses on a contemporary initiative, notions of environmental health history grounded in Australia's colonial past both frame and contribute to the study.

    Methodologies which support an investigation into past programs as well as the perspectives of contemporary practitioners and clients were chosen. For example phenomenography inspired the approach taken to explore the non-Aboriginal environmental health officers' perceptions of the program they support, while Glaser and Strauss's grounded theory provided the paradigm for working with emergent themes. Case study methodology is suitable for enabling the voice of Aboriginal community members to he heard. The resultant data provide insights into the many complex issues impacting on Aboriginal environmental health education programs since they commenced in 1951.

    Aboriginal hygiene and environmental health worker programs aimed to provide appropriate environmental health education to Aboriginal people, but were subverted by the wider political agenda of the times. They became a means to an end other than improved Aboriginal health. Programs have either been absorbed into Aboriginal community business, abandoned or phased out through lack of resources, support or adequate acknowledgment from the government health service which funded them. Where a program enjoys Aboriginal ownership and is integrated into community business, it survives to the benefit of that community.

    The study identifies training, resources and support as issues which impact on the practice of environmental health officers working in remote communities. As well social justice and equity issues emerge to contribute to Aboriginal reconciliation, a major issue at the forefront of contemporary Aboriginal affairs.
    Date of AwardJan 1999
    Original languageEnglish
    SupervisorMichael Christie (Supervisor)

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