There is nothing that 'identifies me to that place' : Aboriginal Women's perceptions of health spaces and places
Fredericks, Bronwyn L. (2009) There is nothing that 'identifies me to that place' : Aboriginal Women's perceptions of health spaces and places. Cultural Studies Review, 15(2), pp. 46-61.
There is a growing body of literature within social and cultural geography that explores notions of place, space, culture, race and identity. The more recent works suggest that places are experienced and understood in multiple ways and are embedded within an array of politics. Memmott and Long, who have undertaken place-based research with Australian Indigenous people, present the theoretical position that ‘place is made and takes on meaning through an interaction process involving mutual accommodation between people and the environment’. They outline that places and their cultural meanings are generated through one or a combination of three types of people–environment interactions. These include: a place that is created by altering the physical characteristics of a piece of environment and which might encompass a feature or features which are natural or made; a place that is created totally through behaviour that is carried out within a specific area, therefore that specific behaviour becomes connected to that specific place; and a place created by people moving or being moved from one environment to another and establishing a new place where boundaries are created and activities carried out.
All these ideas of places are challenged and confirmed by what Indigenous women have said about their particular use of, and relationship with, space within several health services in Rockhampton, Central Queensland. As my title suggests, Indigenous women do not see themselves as ‘neutral’ or ‘non-racialised’ citizens who enter and ‘use’ a supposedly neutral health service. Instead, Aboriginal women demonstrate they are active recognisers of places that would identify them within the particular health place. That is, they as Aboriginal women didn’t just ‘make’ place, the places and spaces ‘make’ them. The health services were identified as sites within which spatial relations could begin to grow with recognition of themselves as Aboriginal women in place, or instead create a sense of marginality in the failure of the spaces to identify them. The women’s voices within this paper are drawn from interviews undertaken with twenty Aboriginal women in Rockhampton, Central Queensland, Australia, who participated in a research project exploring ‘how the relationship between health services and Aboriginal women can be more empowering from the viewpoints of Aboriginal women’. The assumption underpinning this study was that empowering and re-empowering practices for Aboriginal women can lead to improved health outcomes. Throughout the interviews women shared some of their lived realities including some of their thoughts on identity, the body, employment in the health sector, service delivery and their notions of health service spaces and places. Their thoughts on health service spaces and places provide an understanding of the lived reality for Aboriginal women and are explored and incorporated within this paper.
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