Researching with Aboriginal Men: A Desert Experience
While some research amongst Australia’s Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples is extensive, it is only in recent years that research has focused on Aboriginal men and what they understand about living healthy and well within a cultural and contemporary context. In this chapter, the author describes his long history of involvement with a group of Aboriginal people in the desert region of the south-east Kimberley of Western Australia. This history, as also relationships he had formed with other Aboriginal communities, led him in 2001 to return to the desert. Here, he sought to research with the men issues affecting their health. Using an ethnographic, grounded theory approach to research, as also an interdisciplinary theoretical approach, he describes the background of the research, how it developed, and how the results were later disseminated back to the men and their families. As a non-Aboriginal researcher, he also describes some of the particular problems he encountered when beginning the research process (not always from Aboriginal people), and how an ethical process developed to guide and monitor the research. The researcher used a number of different research methods to listen to the “voice” of these desert men and their families. Apart from holding individual and group interviews, he also explored with men their use of art. Some of the traditionalist healers, and other men, offered paintings that described their health or the provision of healing to others. These came to form a significant part of the research. These paintings, as also the narrative style that many men adopted, revealed a fresh and new understanding of Indigenous health set within a very specific geographical, gendered and historical context.
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