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Curtin University of Technology
Building Mental Wealth Building Mental Wealth
Untitled Document

Mr Darren Garvey

Negotiating the 'contested arena' of Indigenous mental health: An investigation of the discursive strategies employed by clients and employees

The mental health of Indigenous Australian people has been the focus of increased interest over the last three decades however, with so many stakeholders and perspectives, a consensus of understanding as to what constitutes Indigenous mental health and how best to promote, treat and maintain it has been hard to come by. Hunter (2004) describes the confusion that has accompanied changing constructions of Indigenous mental health as contributing to a 'tensely contested arena', one in which the conflict between differing constructions are played out in policy, practice and training and impact the experience of clients and employees of mental health services. This research project is interested in examining this tense arena as described by those employed and serviced by it. An analysis of the discourse surrounding 'perceptions of tension' and 'descriptions of negotiation' will be undertaken with a view to articulating how those engaged in the context of mental health services for Indigenous Australian people negotiate their way within it.

The targeting of three groups (mental health professionals, students and Indigenous clients) has the potential to illuminate the harmony and tension between the discursive strategies employed by each as well as consistencies and differences within groups. Doing so may help inform professional and community development resources aimed at improving service provision and service engagement. The ensuing discussion of the research findings considers this within a framework of cultural competence - a concept that will be extended to considering the cultural competence of Indigenous Australian people when accessing and engaging with mental health services, as well as the conventional focus on developing the cultural competence of non-Indigenous mental health professionals.

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Garvey, D. (2012). A funny thing happened on the way the hypogeum: An account of crisis and congruity in the arena of Indigenous mental health. Qualitative Research Journal, 12, 155-164.
Garvey, D. and Bishop B. (2012). Indigenous and cross-cultural psychology. In M. Passer and R. Smith (Eds.) Psychology: The science of mind and behaviour (Australian Edition). McGraw-Hill: Australia.
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Garvey, D. (2011). Closing gaps, maintaining cadence and removing trampolines: a personal reflection on 20 years in health. Medical Journal of Australia, 194, 10, 543-545.
Garvey, D. (2010). 'Ready, Steady…Practice!': How working better with Indigenous Australian people can take as little as three minutes of your time. The Australian Community Psychologist , 22(1), 8-17.