"...": using a non-bracketed narrative to story recovery in Aboriginal mental health care

Saunders, Vicki-Lea (2016) "...": using a non-bracketed narrative to story recovery in Aboriginal mental health care. PhD thesis, James Cook University.

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Two poetic essays, a poem and a palimpsest (or a page from which previous writings have been erased) are central to this work. Each element (re)presents the focus of this inquiry in a different way. This inquiry focusses on a particular type of story ending not often told of, and by, Aboriginal people using or working in mental health care services. As a category of story ending, it is sometimes identified by a word and as a social movement in mental health care widely referred to as Recovery. As a word, Recovery was not commonly used in the places where this inquiry occurred (although over time it became more so). Nor, as a story ending, is it one often told about Aboriginal Australian people accessing mental health care services in North Queensland. As such this inquiry was, and is, focused on listening to how Aboriginal people are storied in mental health care and how these stories end.

Rhetorically and poetically this dissertation poses the following question: "If you knew the end of a story would you still want to hear it?" The underlying thesis and the underlying propositional statement it posits therefore addresses what appears to be a rhetorical and possibly unanswerable question—a deliberate intent by the author. Arts informed research practices (AIR) and poetic inquiry were chosen from amongst those available to make clear the assumptions and stance underlying its positioning as a research project. Poetic inquiry is/was used, not only as a way to position, represent and express the research findings, but importantly as a means through which the aspirations of transformative research paradigms and arts activism may be enacted or made possible or visible. Re-positioned as expressive inquiry or minor research and (re)presented using poetic inquiry, this text is presented in a non-traditional dissertation structure. The three separate narrative beginnings this dissertation contains were constructed to engage with the values and principles underpinning critical, transformative and decolonising research paradigms. Each beginning uses poetry and images as representational, expressive and enactive strategies for storytelling and inquiry. To say this more simply I used Arts informed research practices to listen deeply for stories of recovery amidst those told in Aboriginal mental health care.

Data for this inquiry were gathered over a five-year period, through reading, writing and yarning (or informal, in-depth conversations) with three central storytellers and 21 additional people working in, or accessing, mental health care services in North Queensland. The three central storytellers are all Aboriginal mothers with decades of personal and professional experiences with/in Aboriginal mental health care and service delivery. They have also worked, or still work, as nurses. Their experiences include those experienced as mental health care consumers, practitioners, activists, advocates and carers, and each of the central storytellers were living in North Queensland, Australia when this inquiry began. Interpretation of their stories occurred through collaborative yarning to identify key narrative themes. The research questions posed, and this dissertation as a researched response, were drawn from these yarns. Data for this inquiry consists of 'text/s' that are oral, visual and written in form. Data analysis involved reworking and (re)presenting these texts and the key concerns or themes that yarning about them uncovered. The outcomes of inquiry or research artefacts were also used to generate opportunities for further data collection, validation and creative synthesis. This was done through the creation of a series of collaborative poems and images to respond to the concerns and questions raised iteratively throughout inquiry. In this text these concerns are organised into key moments and themes named (and embedded) using Aboriginal words: Binan Goonj, Dadirri and Niya Noogalla Nulla. In this text select words from Aboriginal languages are sometimes used or placed to create a translational and untranslated space. To take a relational approach to writing, to write with rather than about those involved in inquiring, involved adopting a stance towards writing that is dialogic, inclusive and respectful of multiple perspectives and voice. Throughout this inquiry, I asked repeatedly "What is it that needs to be said?"

In approaching writing as a research methodology, my role as researcher and author shifted subtly towards that of scribe, where authority or credibility rests in how well the words used resonate with or echo those whose 'voices' originally (created/spoke/authored) them. Each of the poems, images and poetic essays used to recreate and express 'the participant voice' in this work has been verified by at least one or more of the twenty-five people formally involved in shaping their creation. This was done not so much for accuracy but for verisimilitude (or similarity/proximity to 'truth'). To do that I asked each storyteller, "Does what I say, still say what you meant? Does this (text) still say what you feel needs to be said?"

Poetry, as well as the narrative skills that reading and writing poetry engages with, can be helpful in sensitising health care providers and students to the viewpoints of others in their daily lives. The poems and images placed throughout allude to the ongoing struggle for Aboriginal Australian people to engage with models (and texts) of mental health care and within recovery-oriented research, policy, and practice contexts that have been described as mono-cultural and colonising. They also invite the reader, researchers, mental health care providers and others to empathically/reflexively participate in answering the two research questions this work presents: "If you knew the end of a story would you still want to hear it?" and "How many stories of living Aboriginally mentally well and recovered do you know?" It invites the reader to read into these questions and to respond in ways that might affect the social, attitudinal and paradigm shift advocated for in recovery oriented policy and practice directives. In effect the way you, the reader, choose to respond to these questions is what substantiates or grounds the underlying hypothesis and aesthetic purpose for this text.

Item ID: 52756
Item Type: Thesis (PhD)
Keywords: Aboriginal Australians; Australia; First Australians; Indigenous Australians; mental health; poems; poetic inquiry; poetry; recovery; story ending; storytelling; yarning
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Some material embargoed until 17 August 2023.

Date Deposited: 26 Jul 2018 02:43
FoR Codes: 11 MEDICAL AND HEALTH SCIENCES > 1199 Other Medical and Health Sciences > 119999 Medical and Health Sciences not elsewhere classified @ 33%
20 LANGUAGE, COMMUNICATION AND CULTURE > 2099 Other Language, Literature and Culture > 209999 Language, Communication and Culture not elsewhere classified @ 34%
19 STUDIES IN CREATIVE ARTS AND WRITING > 1999 Other Studies in Creative Arts and Writing > 199999 Studies in Creative Arts and Writing not elsewhere classified @ 33%
SEO Codes: 97 EXPANDING KNOWLEDGE > 970119 Expanding Knowledge through Studies of the Creative Arts and Writing @ 60%
97 EXPANDING KNOWLEDGE > 970120 Expanding Knowledge in Language, Communication and Culture @ 30%
95 CULTURAL UNDERSTANDING > 9599 Other Cultural Understanding > 959999 Cultural Understanding not elsewhere classified @ 10%
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