Moving Forward Together in Aboriginal Women’s Health: A Participatory Action Research Exploring Knowledge Sharing, Working Together and Addressing Issues Collaboratively in Urban Primary Health Care Settings

Author: Janet Kelly

Kelly, Janet, 2009 Moving Forward Together in Aboriginal Women’s Health: A Participatory Action Research Exploring Knowledge Sharing, Working Together and Addressing Issues Collaboratively in Urban Primary Health Care Settings, Flinders University, School of Nursing & Midwifery

Terms of Use: This electronic version is (or will be) made publicly available by Flinders University in accordance with its open access policy for student theses. Copyright in this thesis remains with the author. You may use this material for uses permitted under the Copyright Act 1968. If you are the owner of any included third party copyright material and/or you believe that any material has been made available without permission of the copyright owner please contact with the details.


This collaborative qualitative research explored ways of improving Aboriginal women’s health and well-being in an urban Adelaide primary health care setting. This involved respectful knowledge sharing, working effectively together and addressing issues related to colonisation, discrimination and exclusion. It was identified that while Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal professionals are committed to ‘Closing the Gap’ in health disparities, many have questioned how best to do so within the current health system. Therefore, this research focused on filling gaps in knowledge about the spaces where Aboriginal community women, and Aboriginal and non Aboriginal health professionals can work collaboratively regardful and regardless of health system polices, programs and practices. A strong commitment to local community preferences and national Aboriginal health research ethics enabled Aboriginal community women and Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal heath professional co-researchers to be actively and meaningfully involved with me in both the research processes and outcomes. A modified Participatory Action Research (PAR), with repeated cycles of Look and Listen, Think and Discuss and Take Action emerged as an effective model of collaborative practice, suitable for health care and research. Four unique yet interconnected areas of collaboration developed, each highlighting particular aspects of culturally safe knowledge sharing and collaboration in health care. The first involved working with Aboriginal community women, acknowledging and addressing their most health and well-being priorities related to high levels of stress in their lives. Collaborative action involved creating a women’s friendship group, seeking and accessing a range of services, and co-presenting our findings at conferences The second Collaboration Area offers insights into the practicalities and difficulties experienced by staff as they tried to provide health services for Aboriginal women in a newly developing Aboriginal health organisation. The third Collaboration Area focused on the challenges and benefits of collaboration between sectors, in particular a local high school and the Aboriginal health service. We explored effective ways to work across sectors and engage young Aboriginal women in health programs. The ongoing impact of discrimination, exclusion and colonisation for this next generation of Aboriginal women was highlighted. The fourth Collaboration Area involved wider collaboration and road testing our collaborative methodology in a broader environment. A diverse group of co-researchers came together to plan, implement and evaluate a de-colonising national action research action learning conference embedded in Aboriginal preferred ways of knowing and doing. Findings are discussed under the three central themes of knowledge sharing, working together and addressing health care access and colonisation and key recommendations for the future are proposed. This research has reinforced the need identified in Aboriginal health documents for policy, program and practice commitment to holistic and collaborative approaches such as comprehensive primary health care and participatory action research. While the National Apology and Close the Gap campaign have provided opportunities for change, these need to be followed by tangible action at all levels of health care.

Keywords: Australian Aboriginal health,primary health care,participatory action research,collaboration,women's health,ethics

Subject: Nursing thesis, Primary Health Care thesis

Thesis type: Doctor of Philosophy
Completed: 2009
School: School of Nursing & Midwifery
Supervisor: Sheryl de Lacey