Challenging the deficit model
: stories of the Anangu way - Indigenous child development in context

  • Jeanette Louise Millier

    Student thesis: Doctor of Philosophy (PhD) - CDU


    This thesis provides a perspective on children growing up in the remote Aboriginal community of Papunya. It is in response to the persistent perception that Aboriginal children are growing up in deficit. An understanding of the perspectives of Aboriginal families in Papunya contributes to an increased awareness of diversity in how children grow up.

    In Australia and particularly in the Northern Territory, Indigenous early child development is attracting considerable government investment, with significant emphasis on intervention programs to facilitate development, such as, for example, the Stronger Communities for Children Program (Australian Institute of Family Studies 2015). In the absence of evidence regarding the nature of, and challenges in Aboriginal child development and parenting (Robinson et al. 2008), the evidence base for such programs is primarily drawn from Western cultural contexts and assumptions.

    This thesis is an exploration both of family stories, thoughts and priorities in rearing children in Papunya and an exploration of dominant Australian cultural influence imposing upon that process. Working together with Aboriginal community research consultants, this research aims to provide a perspective of how children grow up in Papunya, identifying the strengths of
    these children and challenges associated with Western cultural influence.

    This research has been conducted with an ethnographic approach using multiple methods. The research demonstrates that Anangu children growing up in Papunya are not growing up in deficit when the context of the living and learning environment is considered. Families in this research identified that children need to grow up learning the Anangu way to enable them to establish their identity as Anangu. This thesis argues that the Western schooling is not contributing to increased wellbeing for Anangu children; instead, there needs to be an increased focus on learning the Anangu way.

    Date of Award2021
    Original languageEnglish
    SupervisorRolf Gerritsen (Supervisor) & Anne Lowell (Supervisor)

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