A CURTIN University lecturer’s research on what builds resilience in successful Aboriginal people is being implemented into Indigenous health programs.
Dr Marion Kickett, from the Curtin Health Innovation Research Institute’s Aboriginal Health and Education Research Unit, completed her PhD using traditional Aboriginal methodologies.
The research involved meeting with successful Aboriginal people who had been working for 10 or more years to determine what their definition of resilience was and how they became resilient.
“I used the processes of Yarning and Lifelines to talk to them about their stories which were intensely personal and emotional, to find out what motivates them to keep going and live successfully across two cultures,” Dr Kickett says.
Lifelines is a process where the interviewee recounts and reflects on the positives and negatives of their life.
Yarning is a method of conversation used in traditional Aboriginal culture, involving listening rather than asking a direct set of questions.
Dr Kickett says the methods were frustrating at times but she learned how to use them effectively and garner results for her research.
“Using Yarning wasn’t easy in any sense; you have to understand how complex it really is. I talked to a lot of successful Aboriginal people, including elders. They had a lot to say and didn’t always get to the point quickly...I had to learn to stop interrupting and start listening,” she says.
She says the notion of resilience interested her because it seemed Aboriginal people who could move forward from the past had a better chance at success in life and a question she asked herself was, ‘how did you become so successful?’
“What I found was resilience in Aboriginal people involves some key themes. The first is support from family and being able to turn to them for help, the second is a sense of identity and the third is connection to culture.”
“From these three aspects an overarching sense of belonging proved to be important as well,” Dr Kickett says.
“My study encourages Aboriginal people to build on the resilience they already have, deal with the past and move forward,” she says.
The research is now being used by Aboriginal health workers, incorporating it into their Aboriginal resilience framework.
“As a PhD student it was great to obtain a Healthway WA scholarship and research a topic that is close to my heart and am passionate about. I didn’t want my thesis to sit on the shelf, I wanted it to have use,” she says.
Dr Kickett is now writing a book to share the findings of her PhD with a broader audience.