The research of the ADIEH Research Theme is focussed in a place we are referring to as the South. The South is made up if a number of communities located on the southern side of the regional city of Ballarat.
These communities are broadly identified as ‘disadvantaged’ and based on conversations in forums such as the Community Listening Conference (2009) would view themselves as having a diminished sense of political power and an uneven share of the relative prosperity of the broader community within which it lies.
The South is a place that has similarities with a number of areas within the Federation University Australia’s region and some activity of the Research Theme occurs outside the South but in ways that inform the underlying issues.
The South was chosen because of the opportunity it provides to examine the overlapping and reciprocal effects that communities ‘put at a disadvantage’ have on the lives of people, their health, physical well-being, levels of educational attainment and engagement, their access to supportive services, facilities and structures. Furthermore, this program of research is committed to examining how the lives and situations of people can be improved.
The objective is to research how locality, space, place and context in the policy, political, historical, social and cultural context operate to influence, shape, advance or impede:
- educational engagement and successful outcomes
- health, physical activity and physical wellbeing
- access to and utilization of health facilities and resources
- positive ageing and mental wellbeing
- the enhancement of individuals, families and communities, and
- the capacity-building role of professionals in each of these
The intent is to pursue in multi-disciplinary/cross-disciplinary ways, how a range of impediments, barriers and obstacles that comprise social and educational disadvantage impact upon communities, groups and individuals, and how these can be acted upon systemically so as to bring about improvements. There is a major policy and political advocacy element here across these various aspects, as the research reveals the ways in which official policy approaches might be re-worked in the light of local experiences. In particular, the research will help to inform a grassroots approach to community development capable of addressing inequality and disadvantage in education and health outcomes.
The reasons for the single site emphasis have largely to do with:
- the manageability of several disparate and diverse research perspectives
- the feasibility of access to a site which the teams of researchers can realistically move in and out of easily
- the capacity for a quick start-up in a context in which a number of the key researchers know a community and are known by it
- the ability for social research of this kind to have a demonstrable effect.