Traditional Storytelling Foundation Of Major JCU Study

A traditional Melanesian story-telling methodology, 'tok stori' will be the foundation of a new James Cook University research project looking at the lived experiences of Australian South Sea Islanders.

Researchers supported by the Queensland United Australian South Sea Islander Council (QUASSIC) will gather insights from Australian South Sea Islander people to identify ways to improve access to health, housing, employment and education services.

JCU Associate Professor and Principal Research Fellow Michelle Redman-MacLaren will lead the major study and said facilitating 'tok stori' dialogues would culturally ground the research.

"Story is a powerful medium for sharing experiences that can guide meaningful, positive action so we will be recording multigenerational family stories about the lived realities of Australian South Sea Islanders to identify protective cultural factors in addition to challenges faced," Associate Professor Redman-MacLaren said.

"The tok stori approach will also facilitate research that identifies priorities of Australian South Sea Islander communities through comprehensive community engagement and will ensure the research agenda and methods are culturally grounded.

''In addition to 'tok stori', the team will analyse existing quantitative data to build a better understanding of the experiences of Australian South Sea Islander peoples in Queensland across areas such as education, employment, housing and health.

"These findings will begin to fill a knowledge gap and provide evidence-based recommendations to improve services for valued members of our Queensland community.''

QUASSIC President Clacy Fatnowna welcomed the research and said it is an important step forward for South Sea Islander Australians.

"We have been calling for greater understanding of the contemporary Australian South Sea Islander experience in Queensland,'' Mr Fatnowna said.

''This study provides an exciting opportunity to have our stories heard, generate a foundational evidence base, and identify areas for positive change."

JCU Australian South Sea Islander researcher Zia Youse said the study is an incredible opportunity to centralise experiences of Australian South Sea Islander peoples through a culturally relevant research process.

''It will bring together researchers with decades of experience working with Melanesian and Australian South Sea Islander peoples and I'm proud to be contributing to this important work."

The research will initially focus on the communities of Rockhampton and Bundaberg, two regions with significant Australian South Sea Islander populations. A third site will be identified in Far North Queensland as research progresses.

The research was commissioned and funded by the Queensland Government with findings from the study informing the Queensland Government Multicultural Action Plan and policies to support Australian South Sea Islander communities. The study is expected to be completed by mid-2025.

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