Empowerment as a social determinant of Indigenous Australian health - the case of the Family Wellbeing Programme

Whiteside, Mary, Tsey, Komla, and Cadet-James, Yvonne (2009) Empowerment as a social determinant of Indigenous Australian health - the case of the Family Wellbeing Programme. In: Bywaters, Paul, McLeod, Eileen, and Napier, Lindsey, (eds.) Social Work and Global Health Inequalities. Policy Press, Bristol, UK, pp. 165-171.

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Abstract

Globalisation has brought new dimensions and depths to the inequalities which have always characterised human societies. For indigenous peoples across the world, globalisation has too often meant new invasions of traditionally-held land and the destruction of natural environments for deforestation, mining, agribusiness or other forms of exploitation, and has brought in its train the devastating effects of climate change. Meanwhile exclusion from majority societies' pathways to economic and social security through education and employment has exacerbated the inequalities that have long been experienced. One consequence, despite the best efforts of indigenous peoples themselves and their allies, has been acute inequalities in health outcomes (see Chapters 4 and 9, this volume, by Alston and Fawcett, respectively).

The people whose lives are most affected, and practitioners wanting to address the social and health rights of indigenous peoples, are at risk of feeling overwhelmed in the face of such powerful macro-level forces. The situation is compounded by the problematic history between professionals and indigenous peoples in countries like Australia where professionals have too often been implicated in oppressive practices. However, even in the face of such powerful and often destructive social and economic processes, there are examples of ordinary people making extraordinary personal changes and taking greater control of their health and well-being, on occasions with effective professional support. International research into the social determinants of health has demonstrated the significance of people's experience of 'control', a term described as being synonymous with empowerment as critical to health and well~being, irrespective of whether or not these changes ripple to effect wider social systems (Tsey et al, 2003). Despite this research, this important psychosocial factor, which resonates with Indigenous Australians' desire to be self-determining in relation to the health and social services in their communities, has received little attention in research literature. This chapter analyses an attempt by a transdisciplinary team of social workers, public health practitioners and Indigenous academics and community partners to engage with international research addressing the social determinants of health, particularly the critical psychosocial factor of empowerment (Tsey et al, 2003). The Family Wellbeing empowerment programme (FWB), developed by and for Indigenous Australians, will provide a case study to illustrate the approach.

Item ID: 8763
Item Type: Book Chapter (Research - B1)
Keywords: empowerment; social determinant of health; family wellbeing; Indigenous Australian
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ISBN: 978-1-84742-196-8
Date Deposited: 02 Jun 2010 04:23
FoR Codes: 13 EDUCATION > 1303 Specialist Studies in Education > 130399 Specialist Studies in Education not elsewhere classified @ 100%
SEO Codes: 92 HEALTH > 9203 Indigenous Health > 920301 Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Health - Determinants of Health @ 100%
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