The experiences of indigenous Australian psychologists at university
Australian Psychological Society
Faculty of Health, Engineering and Science
School of Psychology and Social Science
Disparities exist between Indigenous Australians and non-Indigenous Australians on indicators of life expectancy, alcohol and drug use, adult and juvenile incarceration, and rates of hospitalisation for self-harm, suicide, and mental and behavioural disorders due to psychoactive substance use. Psychology is a discipline that can assist in remedying these issues, yet disparities are evident in Indigenous participation in higher education generally, as well as within tertiary psychology education specifically. Ten Indigenous Australian psychologists were interviewed to investigate possible barriers and enablers for Indigenous students studying psychology at university. Hermeneutic phenomenology guided the research and its analysis, whereby the data went through a process known as the "hermeneutic circle"; data were analysed in itself, as well as part of the whole, leading to the world views of the participant and researcher converging into a "horizon of meaning." Sources of support for Indigenous students included family support, financial assistance, and Indigenous student support centres. Potential barriers to university study of psychology were negative conceptions of higher education and psychology by the Indigenous community, "culture shock" upon relocating to the metropolitan area, a lack of Indigenous content and staff, and culturally insensitivity by staff members. Efforts should be made to address these barriers to participation, as well as to support those structures and services that were supportive for students.