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Perth Indigenous Community

Tilbury, F., Clark, S., Slee, R., O'Ferrall, I. and Kurz, T. (2004) Perth Indigenous Community. Medical Illustration Department Royal Perth Hospital, Perth, Western Australia.

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Depression has been identified as a significant global health problem. However, to date, there has been little research into the most appropriate strategies to use in the prevention of depression. There is even less research about the understanding that people of culturally and linguistically diverse (CALD) backgrounds and Australian Indigenous communities have of the conditions encompassed by the term depression, (or more culturally and linguistically specific representations of unhappiness) and of the ways in which these conditions may be prevented.

The Listening to Diverse Voices: multicultural mental health promotion research project, a collaboration between Murdoch University and the East Metropolitan Population Health Unit, funded by Healthway, investigated these issues within a variety of minority communities and in consultation with service providers, in Perth, Western Australia, during the period 2001-2004. The objective of the research was to identify cultural differences in understandings and experiences of ‘depression’ and appropriate ways of dealing with such issues.

All interviews and focus groups were undertaken using a semi-structured, standardised schedule. Interview and focus group questions were designed to elicit participants’ understandings of mental health, social and emotional well-being, depression, causes of depression and recommendations for appropriate treatments and/or interventions. Interviews and focus groups were taped and transcribed and the transcripts studied for common themes. These themes were then taken back to the communities for comment, and the summaries adapted according to this further feedback. While it is not claimed that the participants are ‘representative’ of the communities of which they are members, the research team feels confident that the issues identified are among the most common concerns of these communities. It is also important to note that there is a great deal of diversity within the Indigenous communities, and this project does not intend to imply internal homogeneity of individuals, experiences, perspectives or concerns.

Perhaps the most surprising finding is that issues seen by communities as likely to cause emotional (or mental) distress, are social issues, rather than being biomedical in nature. The result of this is that while some of the issues may be dealt with from within a ‘population health’ perspective and organisation, most are outside population health parameters. Therefore this information is being provided to a wider audience in the hope that other government departments, non-government organisations and individuals will also take action to address some of these issues.

Many people helped with the Indigenous component of this project. The team wishes to thank Trish Wall, Michael Wright, Dawn Gilchrist, Barry McGuire, Pat Dudgeon and Chlo Bullen. Also the mental health service providers interviewed - John Longhorne and Stuart Reid - and the many participants who gave their precious time and insights, including but not limited to; Charmaine Pell, Maureen Kelly, Corina Abraham, Alison Dimer, Marie Pryor, Diann Peate, Doreen Turvey, Jean Lewis and Dot Henry.

This summary sheet contains a brief summary of the various issues identified during the Indigenous section of the research, which included focus groups with Indigenous people and health workers, and with non- Indigenous mental health service providers who work with Indigenous people. Our commitment to hearing the voices of the Indigenous people who were involved in this research is reflected in our use of direct quotations taken from the interviews and focus groups. The opinions expressed are from research participants and do not necessarily represent the views of the authors.

Item Type: Report
Murdoch Affiliation(s): Centre for Social and Community Research
Series Name: Listening to Diverse Voices: Multicultural Mental Health Promotion Research Project
Publisher: Medical Illustration Department Royal Perth Hospital
Copyright: East Metropolitan Population Health, 2004 and Murdoch University, 2004
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