Tropical community development
: exploring two practitioners' lived experience of community development in the Kimberley region of Western Australia, 1969-1980

    Student thesis: Doctor of Philosophy (PhD) - CDU


    From 1969 to 1980, my husband Stan Davey and I lived and worked in the tough and remote tropical Kimberley region of north west Australia. We aimed to promote social change in our own culture and assist Aboriginal communities to become agents in their emancipation from economic, social and political structures of oppression. This study is an examination of our lived experience.

    Records produced at the time, such as personal letters, campaign materials, tape recordings, photos, official reports, diaries, journals and notebooks, provide the data for a reconstruction of events and their meanings from our perspective. The study uses reflective phenomenological writing as the method of investigation, combining a process of narrative and analysis that was not possible during the years when the work took place. In doing so, it produces one perspective on some events in Australia's history during an era that no longer reflects Australian race relations.

    The study finds that community development literature fails to adequately acknowledge the strength and power available to people who work together for a common goal despite apparently overwhelmingly negative forces. It valorises personal belief systems as the power source for community development in a harsh environment. It shows that climate influences a theory of grassroots work in remote and harsh environments and that concepts of community are more complete if they highlight women's roles. It affirms the addition of 'spiritual' to the social, economic and political construct. It shows that given the opportunity people can be self-reliant and independent using their own resources; and that helplessness does not equate to hopelessness if people's intangible but available spiritual resources are tapped. Tropical community development theory derived from these experiences centres on personal strengths as an organising principle where the physical and social environments demand unusual strategies for change and unusual change agents.

    Date of Award1998
    Original languageEnglish
    SupervisorJim Cameron (Supervisor) & Darol Cavanagh (Supervisor)

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