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Reframing Discourse and Changing the Narrative of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Health and Wellbeing: An analysis

Deficit discourse is a mode of language which consistently frames Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander identity in a narrative of negativity, deficiency and disempowerment (Fforde et al. 2013). Although there are studies indicating the impact of deficit discourse on health and wellbeing outcomes, it is a complex and little-researched area.

Reframing Discourse seeks to identify methods and approaches in Australia and overseas that have had success in changing the deficit narrative. By documenting and critically analysing existing interventions to reframe Indigenous health towards a strengths-based approach, this project is a significant step in understanding how deficit discourse operates in the health and wellbeing setting. Building this evidence base is critical, as discourse is a complex and multi-faceted challenge. We note that discourse does not simply equate to language use. Rather, language use can be analysed to understanding underlying perceptions and ‘regimes of truth’, by which people create meaning. There is increasing acknowledgment that how Indigenous people are represented and choose to represent themselves may have significant impact on outcomes.

A first project, The Narrative Framing of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Health and Wellbeing: A Review, provided the necessary first step by establishing the nature and prevalence of deficit discourse in the health and wellbeing context. The current project takes the analysis of this field to the next stage, which is to understand best practice internationally that effects change in discourse, and to identify and synthesise scholarship which considers the benefits of doing so.

Project team
  • Emeritus Professor Mick Dodson
  • Dr Bill Fogarty
  • Associate Professor Cressida Fforde
  • Mr Scott Gorringe, Director of Murrimatters Ltd, and Adjunct Senior Lecturer, School of Agriculture and Food Sciences, University of Queensland
  • Dr Melissa Lovell
  • Ms Juleigh Langenberg
  • Ms Mary-Jane Heron
  • Ms Lauren Gibbs
The Deficit Discourse Research Reference Group
  • Professor Mick Dodson, Professor Emeritus, NCIS
  • Associate Professor Cressida Fforde, Associate Professor, NCIS
  • Dr Bill Fogarty, Senior Research Fellow, NCIS
  • Dr Hannah Bulloch, Research Fellow, NCIS
  • Dr Siobhan McDonnell, Research Fellow, NCIS
  • Mr Ben Wilson, Research Associate, NCIS
  • Mr Scott Gorringe, Director, Murri Matters Consulting
  • Dr Patrick Sullivan, Associate Professor, University of Notre Dame
  • Associate Professor Kerry McCallum, Senior Research Fellow, News & Media Research Centre, the University of Canberra
  • Dr Lisa Waller, Senior Lecturer, School of Communication and Creative Arts, Deakin University


Related links
Created: 16 February 2017 - Updated: 22 May 2018