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From Kaat Wara to Moorditj Nyidiyang*: Youth work, change and the constitution of the Wadjela self

Palmer, David (1995) From Kaat Wara to Moorditj Nyidiyang*: Youth work, change and the constitution of the Wadjela self. Masters by Research thesis, Murdoch University.

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Although 'Aboriginality' and the lives of many groups of Nyungars (indigenous people of the south-west of Western Australia) have received much academic and other official scrutiny rarely have the experiences and identities of Wadjelas (non-Aboriginal people) been studied.

Constituting young Nyungars as a 'strange and distant other', and hence a popular object for scientific gaze, achieves a number of effects. Amongst the most important is that Wadjelas are constituted as secure, primary, legitimate and above all normal. This sustains racial privilege and perpetuates the valuing of distinctly Wadjela systems of knowledge.

Rather than choosing Nyungars as subjects for investigation this study makes non-Aboriginality, 'whiteness', or as I describe it, Wadjelaness the problem/subject for investigation. Specifically the thesis uses case studies of 12 Wadjela youth workers to explore this terrain.

The design of the study does not fit neatly into any single research method. It has philosophical roots in heuristic phenomenology and discourse analysis and methodological compatibility with ethnomethodological research. In as much as the research arises from a commitment to training and development of professional practice it connects with critical action research and feminist methods.

The thesis sets out to critically interrogate how Wadjela youth workers often acquiesce to popular discourses on and desires around ‘Aborigines’• It is also examines the kinds of contradictions which result in some youth workers openly challenging dominant ideas about how they should relate to Nyungars. The evidence from the field work demonstrates that many Wadjela lives are fundamentally changed as a result of their working and personal relationships with Nyungars.

* NOTE: The English equivalent for Kaat Wara = silly, stupid or crazy in the head; Moorditj = solid or strong; Nyidiyang = non-Aboriginal person.

Item Type: Thesis (Masters by Research)
Murdoch Affiliation(s): School of Humanities
Supervisor(s): Campion, Michael, Baldock, Cora, Harris, Patricia and Macbeth, Jim
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