“The first thing is survival” - sexual health, blood borne virus and service delivery in the Long Grass in Darwin, Northern Territory Australia

  • Verity Elizabeth Slee

    Student thesis: Coursework Masters - CDU


    This research project is a qualitative inquiry of the perspectives of outreach staff concerning sexual health (SH) and blood borne virus (BBV) related issues of people who spend time in the Long Grass in Darwin, Northern Territory, Australia. The staff are Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal employees and volunteers from Larrakia Nation Aboriginal Corporation’s (LNAC) Healthy Engagement and Assistance in the Long Grass (HEAL) Program. This treatise is part of the assessment requirements for the Masters of Public Health Postgraduate Course at the Menzies School of Health Research (MSHR), Institute of Advanced Studies, Charles Darwin University. The research project was initiated in consultation with the Northern Territory AIDS and Hepatitis Council (NTAHC), MSHR and LNAC. This treatise presents the main themes that emerged through an analysis of data collected through participant observation and interviews. This research project is unique as it is the first to explore SH and BBV issues from the perspectives of staff who work in the Long Grass. While there is a small but growing body of literature that has focused attention on the lived experience of homelessness in Darwin from the perspective of the homeless person, the views and experiences of the service providers, working day to day with this population, have only received limited attention in the research literature. The findings of this research project aim to contribute to this evidence base. There were a number of themes that emerged from the data. Through participant observation and interviews with HEAL staff the project identified: a multitude of competing primary health concerns for people in the Long Grass which are constantly negotiated with daily survival; complexities in SH and BBV health associated with shame and violence which largely go unspoken due to shame, lack of staff training, skills and confidence of staff, staff reluctance due to associated shame and a complex array of barriers to accessing mainstream services for people in the Long Grass. Further findings relate to the experiences and challenges faced by HEAL staff working in a hostile environment; and finally a reflection of service strengths and weaknesses within the Long Grass environment. Findings from this study suggest that although HEAL staff are well situated to deliver health initiatives based on rapport, a holistic approach and accessibility; a range of inhibiting factors such as shame, high demand, lack of training, competing health concerns and a hostile working environment all contribute to issues such as SH and BBV remaining unaddressed.
    Date of Award2013
    Original languageEnglish
    SupervisorRichard Chenhall (Supervisor)

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