'Wis Wei Youpla Health?' A case study of the nature and extent of community participation in health education decision-making for Torres Strait Islander girls at Bluewater High

Whatman, Susan Leigh (2004) 'Wis Wei Youpla Health?' A case study of the nature and extent of community participation in health education decision-making for Torres Strait Islander girls at Bluewater High. PhD thesis, Queensland University of Technology.


This dissertation seeks to investigate the nature and extent of community participation in health education decision making for Torres Strait Islander girls at one Queensland high school. As such, the study is concerned with identifying stakeholders in health education for girls, describing the ways in which stakeholders participate in health education decision-making, and identifying the factors that promote or inhibit community participation in health education decision-making.

The question presupposes several standpoints: firstly, that Indigenous communities want to participate in education decision-making and, secondly, that community participation would be desirable in producing good outcomes for Indigenous students. Thus, the literature review is concerned with critiquing discourses of community participation in Indigenous education, the effects on educational outcomes of Indigenous students when community participation is enabled, and reviewing previous research on educational decision-making in health education in Australia.

Given the necessity for emancipatory research methodology in Indigenous research contexts, a critical ethnographic case study approach was chosen to investigate the research questions at a high school in the Torres Strait; building a critical case record from field notes, interview data, and documents. Using Carspecken's (1996) stages of data analysis, primary records were reconstructed and dialogically negotiated with participants, to describe system relations. Such an approach allows for power and control relations between researchers and research participants to be explicated, giving voice to usually marginalised groups, such as Indigenous students. This approach was also congruent with specific Torres Strait Islander research protocols, informed by Ailan Kastom, which were necessary to sensitively and successfully undertake the research.

Data analysis was informed by a framework of Indigenous community participation theory, derived from Soliman (1995), Heslop (1998 ), Ministerial Advisory Council for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Education (1999) and Stewart (1999), together with curriculum theory, from Bernstein (1976; 1990; 2000). This approach constituted a unique adaptation of Bernstein's pedagogic discourse theory to a Torres Strait Islander educational setting.

The findings indicated that there was strong desire by community members, including students, to participate in health education decision-making at Bluewater High. However, the ability of different stakeholder groups to participate in health education varied, with teachers exercising the most power, and students the least. An in-depth, contextual analysis, in which pedagogic decision-making occurred, enabled a number of immediate and long-term recommendations to be developed. It is envisaged that these recommendations will enable greater community participation in health education decision-making for girls at Bluewater High, and more generally in other Indigenous educational settings.

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ID Code: 15863
Item Type: QUT Thesis (PhD)
Supervisor: Taylor, Sandra & Singh, Parlo
Keywords: Indigenous education, Torres Strait Islander education, Torres Strait Islander girls, Indigenous community participation, educational decision-making, health education, pedagogy, culturally appropriate education.
Divisions: Current > Research Centres > Office of Education Research
Current > QUT Faculties and Divisions > Faculty of Education
Department: Faculty of Education
Institution: Queensland University of Technology
Copyright Owner: Copyright 2004 Susan Leigh Whatman
Deposited On: 03 Dec 2008 03:51
Last Modified: 28 Oct 2011 19:39

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