Experiences of kinship and connection to family for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander young men with histories of incarceration
Epidemiological approaches have brought important attention to the issues surrounding the over-incarceration of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander (ATSI) young people, and the enormous health and socio-economic disparities they face. An implicit discourse often exists within the construction of this ‘knowledge’, however, that situates ATSI young people in deficit terms.
Using narrative inquiry, a methodological approach congruent with ATSI culture and ways of knowing, this paper aimed to challenge this dominant discourse via an examination of the narratives of eight 19-24 year old ATSI men involved in the criminal justice system.
Experiences of family removal and dislocation were common, as were narratives of striving, often against all odds, to preserve and nurture family connections and kinship ties. The paper reveals how experiences of ongoing trauma and loss harmed young men’s ties to kinship systems and family and in doing so deprived them of the very systems needed to sustain a sense of value, purpose and belonging.
The paper concludes that a commitment is urgently needed from governments to adequately fund and resource solutions that honour and respect the important role family and kin represents in ATSI culture, as are sustainable solutions that address over-incarceration of ATSI young people that are self-determining and led by their people.
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