Research Dancing: reflections on the relationships between university-based researchers and community-based researchers at Gurriny Yealamucka Health Services Aboriginal Corporation, Yarrabah

Mayo, Kevin, and Tsey, Komla (2009) Research Dancing: reflections on the relationships between university-based researchers and community-based researchers at Gurriny Yealamucka Health Services Aboriginal Corporation, Yarrabah. Report. Cooperative Research Centre for Aboriginal Health, Darwin, NT, Australia.

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This paper examines and reflects upon the research relationships between university-based researchers and community-based researchers working in social health and empowerment programs with the Indigenous community of Yarrabah in northern Queensland. Such relationships have undergone significant reappraisal and change in the past decade, and, in the case of Yarrabah, are undergoing significant expansion. At Yarrabah, this has been a process whereby the community has set the research agenda and university researchers have facilitated the development of appropriate programs and the capacity of the community to administer and run these programs. An expression of this relationship was enacted in September 2006 on the first day of an international psychiatry conference held at Yarrabah. This involved a performance by the local men’s cultural dance group, Yaba Bimbie. Part of the performance included the James Cook University (JCU) research team and staff members of Gurriny Yealamucka Health Services Aboriginal Corporation (hereafter Gurriny Yealamucka). It represented the relationship that had developed between the external research team, staff of the local health organisation and community members. A lead dancer enacted the experience of being ‘down and out’ on the streets, plagued by drug, alcohol and mental health problems, and crying out for help and healing of his body, soul and spirit. The JCU team and Gurriny Yealamucka staff members stood within the circle of dancers and reached out their hands and arms to assist this man in need. Their support enabled him to lift himself out of despair. As he moved towards them, the supporters stepped aside to give him space. The other dancers then followed. They were all passing through Yealamucka. Together they reached a place where they were able to work as a group to take control and responsibility and to realise the vision they have for themselves as men, for their families, and for the Yarrabah men’s group. No longer did they need alcohol or drugs to live life. In doing so, they became role models. The lead dancer explained that the name Gurriny Yealamucka has important historical significance. Traditionally, people had gone to the healing waters in the community—Yealamucka—if they were sick or if they wanted to maintain good health. At this healing pool, people would sing traditional songs and dance and then bathe in the water to be healed by the spirit of the land. The involvement of Gurriny Yealamucka staff symbolised the responsibility the health service has assumed for community healing through the Men’s Group, Women’s Group and youth programs. JCU and the University of Queensland (UQ) researchers have facilitated and supported this transition. This performance reflects a transformation in the emphasis and methodology of applied research within Indigenous communities in the past decade. For one university researcher, this combination of the traditional way and the European way was the essence of reconciliation. This paper focuses on successes and challenges faced by research partners at Yarrabah in the Family Wellbeing Program and the Indigenous Men’s Support Group. These programs are collaborations between Gurriny Yealamucka Health Services, JCU (Cairns) and UQ. The paper refers to proceedings from evaluation workshops conducted among community and university researchers, and to semi-structured in-depth interviews with key researchers. As a guideline, it uses a set of core values of community-based research and a set of benefits and challenges for community and university researchers, summarised by Beacham et al. 2004. Through the workshop and interview process, it examines how the experiences of researchers compare with these guidelines. The paper emphasises that the implementation of community research partnerships is a process requiring time, trust and commitment from all involved. The employment of community researchers is not simply about producing a research product, but also about capacity building within the community. As such, it is a developmental process with potential to build awareness, confidence, skills, employment and role models within the community, in line with a holistic view of community health and wellbeing. Ongoing evaluation of this research is important to maintain guidance and momentum for such programs and to inform communities and researchers about what works and how to improve things for the future. The increasing deployment of community researchers also means that published reflection on such experiences now has much wider, practical relevance.

Item ID: 11170
Item Type: Report (Report)
ISBN: 978-0-7340-4050-3
Keywords: empowerment; social and emotional wellbeing; Indigenous; Aboriginal; health; community based researchers, Yarrabah
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Discussion paper series: No. 8

Date Deposited: 02 Jun 2010 04:07
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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