Study of intra-racial exclusion within Australian Indigenous communities using eco-maps

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Journal Article
International Journal of Mental Health Nursing, 2017, 26 (2), pp. 129 - 141
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© 2016 Australian College of Mental Health Nurses Inc. In Australia, ‘indigeneity’ is not determined by skin colour, but rather by a person's heritage, acceptance by an indigenous community, and active participation in the affairs of that indigenous community. Some people who identify as indigenous, however, have experienced ‘colourism’ – that is, experiences of social exclusion because of the colour of their skin – from non-Indigenous and also Indigenous Australians. This paper describes research that explored the effect of intra-racial exclusion on the mental health and wellbeing of Indigenous Australians, with a particular focus on skin colour or ‘manifest indigeneity’. Framed within a qualitative design, an eco-map was used to guide in-depth interviews with 32 participants that gave rise to personal stories that described the distress of experiencing intra-racial colourism. Findings were derived from a thematic analysis that identified four major themes: ‘Growing up black’, ‘Living on black country’, ‘Looking black’, and ‘Fitting in black’. These findings are important because they suggest a way forward for mental health nurses to better understand and support the mental health and wellbeing of Indigenous Australians who have experienced social exclusion as a result of colourism.
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