Within the current Australian climate of dismissal of Aboriginal First Nation’s sovereignty and the right to be included in decision making impacting Aboriginal futures and lives, there is now more than ever an urgent need to disrupt the ongoing meta-narrative which keeps Aboriginal people vulnerable and disadvantaged. Transforming vulnerability requires courage, inclusion and the amplification of Australian voices promoting human rights and social justice.
Aboriginal people and communities are made vulnerable through a colonising regime that continues to apply policies of exclusion, silencing and denial of the rights of First Nations peoples to be included in decision making about their affairs. If we are serious about transforming vulnerable Aboriginal communities, Australia cannot continue to place barriers that prevent First Nations people from having a place and a voice at the table. There is a need to change the paternalistic and deficit rhetoric that frames Aboriginal Australians as hopeless, undeserving and complicit in their disadvantage to one of resilience and strength.
This presentation explores the role of First Nations people in disrupting the narrative of vulnerability by transforming their own communities. Case examples from Aboriginal community controlled organisations demonstrate the strengths inherent in communities in building resilience and creating sustainable futures. Real participation, inclusive decision making and transfer of power and resources will enable real change to happen
Professer Dawn Bessarab is Director for the Centre for Aboriginal Medical and Dental Health at the University of Western Australia (UWA). Dawn is an Indigenous woman of Bard (West Kimberley) and Yjindjabandi (Pilbara) descent. Prior to joining the UWA, Dawn worked as an Indigenous Health Researcher at the Centre for Health Innovation Research Institute at Curtin University where she collaborated with people working in the field of chronic disease; cardio vascular, cancer and ageing. Dawn has extensive experience across the Western Australian public sector, specifically in the area of child protection, family violence, alcohol and substance abuse and the criminal justice system. She has worked for the Department of the Attorney General across courts and tribunal services, and the Department of Child Protection (then Community Development) as a social worker and an Aboriginal child protection worker. Professor Bessarab is interested in the application of Indigenous research methodologies such as ‘yarning’ and the translation of research into policy and practice. She advocates the importance of understanding the cultural traditions of Aboriginal people and is engaged in research looking at interventions and collaborative approaches to addressing health issues affecting Aboriginal people. Dawn is a chief investigator on a number of National Health and Medical Research Council grants and her expertise in Aboriginal research is highly regarded.
Kathleen Clapham, is a Professor (Indigenous Health) at the Australian Health Services Research Institute, at the University of Wollongong. Kathleen joined the Institute in 2011. She holds a BA (Hons First Class) and PhD in Anthropology and has over 25 years experience as an academic in higher education, where she specialises in Indigenous health research and education. Prior to joining the Institute she was the Director of the Woolyungah Indigenous Centre at the University of Wollongong. Kathleen has been Chief Investigator on NHMRC and ARC funded and other studies with an Indigenous health focus. Her research interests include: social determinants of health; Indigenous injury prevention and safety promotion; Indigenous child health and resilience; and Indigenous health workforce development.