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Accepted Paper:

Indigenous data in Indigenous hands: Changing the way national statistics represent Indigenous wellbeing in Australia  
Sarah Bourke (Australian National University)

Paper short abstract:

Identifying the social and cultural determinants of health for Indigenous Australians requires a fundamental paradigm shift in the way these data are collected. This paper focuses on a national study in Australia which placed Indigenous perspectives at the centre of their research model.

Paper long abstract:

Indigenous Australians, including Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders, are strong, resilient and resourceful. It is well known that Indigeneity (the quality of being Indigenous) and the practice of culture reinforce good health and wellbeing outcomes. However, Indigenous population statistics collected by the Australian Government are often used to paint a picture of universal disadvantage and deficit in comparison to non-Indigenous Australians. This 'deficit discourse' has led the general public, media, and government officials to blame Indigenous individuals and communities for their own social and health burdens, without acknowledging the ongoing pervasive and systemic colonial processes at work in Australia. In response, Indigenous health researchers and organisations have worked together to establish their own national epidemiological survey of Indigenous Australian wellbeing which recognises the fundamental role of culture in living well. My doctoral thesis focused on the development of this survey, called the Mayi Kuwayu National Study of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Wellbeing. I undertook extensive ethnographic fieldwork with the researchers and staff who worked on the Mayi Kuwayu Study to explore the anthropological implications of quantifying cultural determinants of health for Indigenous Australians. The major findings of my research revealed how Indigeneity itself may be embedded within epidemiological research, and how the creation of data which reflect Indigenous lifeworlds is a source of power in the Indigenous health narrative. This paper focuses on the potential of such data to support Indigenous self-determination and wellbeing alongside decolonising health research in Australia and beyond.

Panel Heal08a
Well-what? Navigating discourses of 'being well' in medical anthropology and beyond I
  Session 1 Thursday 1 April, 2021, -