“I do stay healthy”: The place and meaning of physical activity and health in the lives of urban Indigenous young people

Nelson, Alison (2010). “I do stay healthy”: The place and meaning of physical activity and health in the lives of urban Indigenous young people PhD Thesis, School of Human Movement Studies, The University of Queensland.

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Author Nelson, Alison
Thesis Title “I do stay healthy”: The place and meaning of physical activity and health in the lives of urban Indigenous young people
School, Centre or Institute School of Human Movement Studies
Institution The University of Queensland
Publication date 2010-10
Thesis type PhD Thesis
Supervisor Professor Doune Macdonald
Dr. Rebecca Abbott
Total pages 385
Total colour pages 25
Total black and white pages 360
Subjects 11 Medical and Health Sciences
Abstract/Summary Little is known about how Indigenous young people understand and articulate their health and the meanings they give to physical activity in their lives. Being Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander in contemporary Australia is often discursively constructed in physical activity and health literature as equating with risks and deficits of many kinds. Indigenous young people are statistically less likely to engage in physical activity and have higher statistical risk of dying younger and bearing a greater burden of illness than their non-Indigenous counterparts. Conversely, Aboriginal people have been portrayed as superior in sporting ability, often described as ‘black magic’ and thus sport has been promoted as a pathway for upward social mobility. These portrayals are often essentialising and patronising, born of a colonial past which sought to regulate, assimilate and control Indigenous people. They ignore the complexity and diversity of the lived experiences of Indigenous young people. This thesis sought to explore the ways in which a group of urban Indigenous young people make sense of their health and physical activity in their home, school and their community contexts, particularly in light of these multiple discourses about them. Fourteen urban Indigenous young people (6 male, 8 female) aged 11-13 years (at first interview), were interviewed up to seven times over two and a half years, as they transitioned from primary to secondary school. Drawings, photos, diaries, media and magazine clippings and mapping were used as stimuli for interviews and as an additional form of raw data, with analysis comprising both thematic and discourse analysis. The research process, data collection and analyses were informed by several different theoretical perspectives and tools, including post-structural theory, post-colonial theory, critical race theory, whiteness studies, risk society and ‘the cultural interface’. A post-hoc theorising approach was adopted as it enabled the narrative data to be fore grounded, with any theoretical outlook deemed useful based on its ability to help inform an analysis, rather than seeking to ‘fit’ the data into a particular analytical ‘lens’. In addition, the research has taken a deliberately strengths-based rather than pathologised perspective of Indigenous young people. This was in keeping with an anti-racist research methodology which acknowledges the need to deconstruct familiar ideological knowledge patterns which have resulted from a colonial history. Findings from this research are presented across several chapters. Firstly, the social, cultural and physical locations of physical activity in the lives of these young people are explored in using the cultural interface (Nakata, 2007) as a theoretical tool with which to problematise the ways in which ‘culture’ is used to position Indigenous young people and their engagement in physical activity and sport. The ways in which the young people enter into, resist and reconceptualise common discourses about them are further explored in subsequent chapters, including the intersections between physical activity and culture, race, healthism and popular culture. These chapters highlight the diversity within this group of young people in their engagement in sport and physical activity. Many of the young people identified ways in which their social and cultural connections created meanings in their physical worlds which impacted their engagement in physical activity, both creating and limiting opportunities. At times, social connection (e.g. having a large family) helped to compensate for limitations in physical spaces (e.g. having a small backyard). Physical activity and sport were embedded within a social context which included frequent re-location and issues of housing access. While there was some resistance to stereotypes of ‘blackfellas being good at sport’, for some this essentialist notion provided an opportunity to assert what they appeared to appropriate as cultural capital. For some, sport and physical activity were key parts of their identity, while for others, they appeared to have little meaning or significance in their lives. The young people generally (but not universally) asserted pride in their Aboriginal bodies, expressing a cultural embodiment beyond skin colour. The insights provided by this group of urban Indigenous young people did not produce a neat, essentialised view of health and physical activity in their lives. There was often complexity and contradiction within and between participant’s comments. These findings indicate that a range of approaches to physical activity policy development and programming is required for Indigenous young people. These need to take place within a broader context of valuing and promoting meaningful activities (e.g. academic, creative and physical activities) as vehicles for the experience of success and worth for urban Indigenous young people. The findings of this study provide valuable insights into the ways in which health and physical activity are understood and expressed, and the ways in which Indigenous young people engage in and resist dominant discourses regarding their reasons for, and benefits of, participation.
Keyword Indigenous
young people
physical activity
Additional Notes Colour pages: 48,53,108,109,123-130,132,199,204,284,291,300,302-307,328 Landscape Pages: 302-312, 328,347-354,383

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Created: Fri, 15 Oct 2010, 11:52:48 EST by Ms Alison Nelson on behalf of Library - Information Access Service