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Inala Wangarra, an urban Indigenous community-controlled organisation, has hosted the biennial Rite of Passage program since 2009, first initiated by their Youth Committee as means of celebrating the transition of young people from adolescence to young adulthood. The program, open to 15–21 year old members of the Inala Indigenous community, is a sophisticated ritualisation of the location, presentation and celebration of its young people.
University of Queensland researchers in a unique partnership with Inala Wangarra documented, reflected on and analysed the processes leading up to and following on from the Rite of Passage ball in order to understand the impact of the ritualisation of coming of age on the participants.
Through an investigation of the Ball, the project aimed to illicit a deeper understanding of urban Indigenous masculinities, roles and expectations and highlight the agency and capabilities of young Indigenous men. A second aim of the project was to investigate the Rites of Passage Ball as a case study of strengths based community development in practice, exploring how it supports Indigenous young people and reconfigures Indigenous capacity. Finally, the Ball was investigated in its significance to ritual and ceremony in an urban Indigenous context.
This participatory action research project primarily used film, in-depth interviews and photovoice to gather qualitative data from young men participating in the 2018 Rite of Passage program, their partners, families, and stakeholders. The research project utilised a Participatory Action Research framework and the Most Significant Change technique for participants to explore the significance the program had upon their lives.
Where do we go from here?
There is a clear need to for an Indigenous masculinities research agenda capable of interrogating the continuing denigrating settler representations of Indigenous men. Such an agenda should:
‘Strength-based’ approaches within Indigenous health need to be informed theoretically and practically by Indigenous peoples and communities.
Dr Chelsea Bond
The University of Queensland