Shoe or stew? Balancing wants and needs in Indigenous households: A study of appropriate income support payments and policies for families

Author/editor: Finlayson, J, Auld, AJ
Year published: 1999
Issue no.: 182

Abstract

Can service delivery and program development accommodate cultural parameters? What bureaucratic mechanisms could encompass such accommodations in program delivery and/or policy stance?

Such fundamental questions are addressed in this discussion paper by charting the process of undertaking field-based research on the effectiveness of government income support payments to Indigenous families for care of children. The paper details how the pilot study for the field investigation led firstly, to issues of appropriate research methodology and field practice, and secondly, required careful specification of the arenas of Indigenous domestic life which could, or should, give grounds to justify State intervention and scrutiny as an action in the 'best interests' of Indigenous people. An immediate outcome of the pilot study is that Aboriginal domestic circumstances and family life are far more complex and volatile than policy makers might expect, or than service deliverers may be able to accommodate. Ethnographic literature confirms this. It adds weight to the view argued here, that policy and program intervention must be carefully handled because many of the identified internal dynamics of Indigenous welfare-based households have yet to be fully understood. These dynamics relate to income poverty, patterns of household expenditure and wider issues of sociality as these are impacted upon by residential mobility and the differential demands of age and gender on household membership, stability and economic wellbeing.

Arguably, the conclusions of the Kuranda pilot study project indicate that basic issues of infrastructure, namely, appropriate and adequate housing and access to public transport, remain core concerns for Indigenous households and the quality of life that they experience. Amelioration of these factors of service provision alone would directly enhance the circumstances in which welfare-reliant Indigenous families in Kuranda endeavour to care for their families' needs.

ISBN: 0 7315 2617 1

ISSN:1036 1774

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