Humility, inquisitiveness, and openness: key attributes for meaningful engagement with Nyoongar people
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Objective: Mental health clinicians have struggled to recognise the need to understand an Aboriginal worldview and how human interactions are shaped by social relationships in kin-based societies. This paper considers the findings of Looking Forward Project, a participatory action research study aimed at investigating the serious disconnection between mental health and drug and alcohol service providers and Aboriginal families living in Perth, Western Australia. Method: Our research methods and knowledge exchange were premised on the shared storytelling between Aboriginal Elders, researchers, senior management and clinicians. Study participants included eighteen local Elders and approximately seventy staff across eleven mental health and drug and alcohol organisations, over four years. Elders have been the primary drivers of the research design. This paper is shaped by the storying process. Results: The study revealed the lack of trust between service providers and Aboriginal families is predominantly due to the lack of understanding by service providers of the critical difference in social relationships. The lack of trust creates a barrier to accessing services and compromises the quality of response by services. Humility, inquisitiveness and openness are essential qualities for meaningful engagement and sustainable relationships. Discussion: The rebuilding of trust requires the development of meaningful relationships in order to break down the barriers so as to increase access and develop culturally secure responses by services. When clinicians adopt these essential qualities they will develop a reflective practice that enables them to be more adaptable in their work with Aboriginal clients and their families.
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