Listening to Aboriginal women of the Illawarra and Shoalhaven
The marginalised position and unequal health status of Aboriginal people in Australia are a direct consequence of the trauma and dispossession of colonisation. Aboriginal women experience even greater levels of distress and ill health than Aboriginal men, and are more disadvantaged than any other group of women in Australia. While strength of cultural identity leads to increased social and emotional wellbeing (SEWB) and reduced socioeconomic hardship, Aboriginal people in urban and regional areas suffer greater discrimination and resultant psychological stress than those in remote areas; they are additionally subjected to accusations of inauthenticity. Improving Aboriginal women’s SEWB is pivotal in advancing Aboriginal SEWB overall. This research has explored nine regional Aboriginal women’s experiences of culture and identity by a process of deeply listening to each woman: Ngara Dyin (Dharawal language). The aim was to discern means to strengthen cultural attachment and enhance positive cultural identity for this group of women, and consequently their community. Through the process of interpretive phenomenological analysis, seven interdependent overarching themes were developed: walking and talking black; it’s not easy growing up in a white society; we sit down and listen; connection to Country; strong black women; the way forward; and, wanting that magic. Decolonising approaches to increasing Aboriginal women’s SEWB dictate that understandings of culture and identity must be informed and guided by the very people whose experience is being sought, and these women clearly indicate the need for strengthened cultural connection through funded gatherings and connections with senior women from remote areas.