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Roles and Ritual: The Inala Wangarra Rite of Passage Ball case study

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 will document, reflect on and analyse 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.

The research aims are:

  1. Describe an existing urban Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander ritual that celebrates the “coming of age” of young Indigenous men and women (Rite of Passage Ball).
  2. Investigate the impact of ritual upon young Indigenous men’s social and emotional wellbeing and their role(s) within their family and community.
  3. Examine the expectations of urban Indigenous young men, exploring the varying ways in which they enact and challenge racialised, cultural and gender expectations.

This participatory action research project will primarily use film to gather and record qualitative data from young men participating in the 2018 Rite of Passage program, their partners, families, and stakeholders. This research will draw upon the ‘most significant change’ technique to explore the significance of the program upon the lives of young men.

Expected outcomes of the research are:

  1. Production of a series of video vignettes and podcasts chronicling the maturation of young Indigenous men as they participate in the “Rite of Passage” program.
  2. Well-developed theoretical understanding of urban Indigenous masculinities.
  3. Briefing paper outlining strengths-based community-led approaches to supporting Indigenous young people.
  4. Two-way knowledge exchange between Indigenous undergraduate students, University of Queensland researchers, and Indigenous community-controlled organisation staff.
  5. Commercial pitch for production of feature-length, high quality documentary.

Led by Indigenous chief investigators (Bond and Brady) this research will contribute to deepening and extending theoretical understandings around Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander urban masculinities; provide insight into the phenomenology of cultural grounding; and inform approaches to social and emotional wellbeing that are not predicated on the bio-medical model. This research celebrates the value and legitimacy of young Indigenous men, and the efforts of an urban Indigenous community in maintaining community cultural ceremonies. Through this, the important work of modelling and explicitly teaching researchers, public servants and policy makers how to take a strengths-based approach to engagement with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples (including young men) will be achieved.

Related resources

Project leader

Dr Chelsea Bond

Administering institution:

The University of Queensland

Completion date:

Expected March 2019