Empowerment-Based Research Methods: A 10-Year Approach to Enhancing Indigenous Social and Emotional Wellbeing Academic Article uri icon


  • OBJECTIVES: This paper describes a research program that has operationalized the links between empowerment at personal/family, group/organizational and community/structural levels and successful mechanisms to address Indigenous social and emotional wellbeing issues such as family violence and abuse, suicide prevention and incarceration. METHODS: A two-pronged approach, involving the Family Wellbeing Empowerment Program and Participatory Action Research, was used to enhance the capacity of program participants and their communities to take greater charge of issues affecting their health and wellbeing. RESULTS: Key program outcomes include an enhancement of participants' sense of self worth, resilience, problem-solving ability, ability to address immediate family difficulties as well as belief in the mutability of the social environment. There is also evidence of increasing capacity to address wider structural issues such as poor school attendance rates, the critical housing shortage, endemic family violence, alcohol and drug misuse, chronic disease, and over-representation of Indigenous men in the criminal justice system. Participants are also breaking new ground in areas such as values-based Indigenous workforce development and organizational change, as well as issues about contemporary Indigenous spirituality. CONCLUSIONS: The use of a long-term (10-year) community research strategy focussing directly on empowerment has demonstrated the power of this approach to facilitate Indigenous people's capacity to regain social and emotional wellbeing and begin to rebuild the social norms of their families and community.


  • Tsey, Komla
  • Wilson, Andrew
  • Haswell-Elkins, Melissa
  • Whiteside, Mary
  • McCalman, Janya
  • Cadet-James, Yvonne
  • Wenitong, Mark

publication date

  • February 2007