Because I'm Black: What makes for well-functioning Aboriginal families in Brisbane

Featherstone, Gerald (2017). Because I'm Black: What makes for well-functioning Aboriginal families in Brisbane PhD Thesis, School of Nursing, Midwifery and Social Work, The University of Queensland. doi:10.14264/uql.2017.441

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Author Featherstone, Gerald
Thesis Title Because I'm Black: What makes for well-functioning Aboriginal families in Brisbane
School, Centre or Institute School of Nursing, Midwifery and Social Work
Institution The University of Queensland
DOI 10.14264/uql.2017.441
Publication date 2017-03-27
Thesis type PhD Thesis
Supervisor Diane Hafner
Deborah Walsh
Total pages 226
Total colour pages 10
Total black and white pages 216
Language eng
Subjects 1601 Anthropology
1607 Social Work
Formatted abstract
Research on parenting has increased significantly over the last 30 years, with most literature focusing on Western views of parenting. This presents as problematic when attempting to generalise this information to minority cultural groups. There remains a shortfall in knowledge on effective parenting characteristics of Aboriginal child rearing. Most research on Aboriginal communities has focused on deficits and issues related to child protection, as well as guidance on how best to work with Aboriginal communities. There appears to be a reluctance to investigate or accept different cultural approaches to these issues, with the literature on Aboriginal parenting found to be, at times, misleading and misrepresentative. After a history of more than 200 years of dispossession and misrepresentation, it is timely to consider an important, although little investigated, element of Aboriginal existence. This thesis addresses this shortfall by seeking to answer the question of what characteristics are displayed by well-functioning urban Aboriginal families.

This thesis is a qualitative study that employed a three-stage methodology. A content analysis was first conducted to establish a baseline understanding, by exploring three studies that commented on Aboriginal parenting from 1913 to 1989. Next, local Brisbane Elders participated in a focus group discussion to explore their experiences of being parented, as well as how they raised their own children. Finally, an ethnographic study incorporating participant observations, semi-structured interviews and videoed interactions was completed with three participant families. This stage of the study explored the experiences of contemporary Aboriginal families and their parenting, and was the culmination of the methodological investigation.

Through the application of a conceptual framework informed by critical theory and employing a postcolonial perspective, the research found that, despite experiences of trauma and difficulty, the families studied were raising their children in accordance with a unique style that met the cultural, developmental and emotional needs of their children. What this represented was a unique family systems approach to caring for children that incorporated intergenerational support, from grandmothers in particular, which enabled mothers to maintain their role as primary caregivers, as well as a focus on child development guided by interaction with the child’s environment and play-based learning.

The findings revealed that the model of care observed in the families has retained similarities to data identified in the baseline studies, suggesting there are aspects of Aboriginal approaches to child rearing that have remained fairly constant over time and across place. This is of significance especially in the fields of family support, program development and, even more saliently, child protection, where decisions to remove children need to be based on analyses employed within a framework of cultural understanding and safety, rather than decisions that affect Aboriginal parents and children who may justifiably conclude they are made ‘because I’m black’.
Keyword Parenting
Child protection
Additional Notes 14, 100, 117, 135, 204, 208, 210, 211, 212, 215

Document type: Thesis
Collections: UQ Theses (RHD) - Official
UQ Theses (RHD) - Open Access
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Created: Wed, 15 Mar 2017, 11:58:20 EST by Mr Gerald Featherstone on behalf of Learning and Research Services (UQ Library)