Approaches to the Research Theme

Initial consultations with interested researchers from the Schools of Education, Human Movement and Sports Science, Nursing and Behavioural and Social Sciences and Humanities identified the following commonalities in approach and perspective:

  • Health, illness, physical wellbeing, education and the ability to access to them are socially constructed — i.e. they are not by and large genetically determined nor are they immutable.
  • Access to social resources (learning, credentialing, employment, health care services, wellbeing, community resources) is not equitable—some groups secure a disproportionate access to them, while others have only limited access or are not sure how to access them.
  • Certain groups — the young, the elderly, the ill, the un/under-employed— can often be marginalized and 'put at' a particular disadvantage.
  • Place and regional/rural location play a part in exacerbating inequality and disadvantage.
  • Policies and practices while often designed to redress inequalities can often lead to unintended distortions of inequality and access.
  • The burden of blame and responsibility for inequality and disadvantage is often unfairly attributed to and located within alleged deficits of individuals, their background, families or communities.
  • Existing ways of conceiving of issues of disadvantage and dealing with problems and delivering service need to be robustly questioned.
  • The people who are wrongly considered to be ‘the problem’ need to be more actively incorporated into being part of ‘the solution’—in other words, there needs to be a greater promotion of agency and independence rather than dependence.
  • Bringing about change and improvement in communities 'put at' a disadvantage involves action-oriented approaches.
  • Notions of ‘community’ are crucial, but it is a question of how this notion is construed, and whose interests are being served.
  • As university researchers we have a responsibility to undertake research with such groups and help them develop a policy voice—to that extent, this kind of research is not benign nor politically neutral; it is advocacy research.