Theory and research on bullying and racism from an Aboriginal Australian perspective


This presentation offers a review of research that investigated the impact of bullying and racism on Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples within Australia. The overarching emphasis will be directed towards a variety of physical, social, mental, and educational outcomes for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children and youth, whilst also critiquing the prevailing literature with regard to its inclusion and sensitivity towards the importance of culture and connected values. In doing so, questions with regard to the distinctiveness and overlap between bullying and racism will be addressed.
As part of the review process, the key words of bullying, racism, Aboriginal/Indigenous Australians will guide a search through the last decade of published articles in psychological, educational, and health journals collected from numerous online databases (e.g., Psyc INFO, ERIC, PubMed). Attention will also be placed on international research focussing on indigenous and minority group samples.
International research on the impact of bullying and racism strongly attests to the negative effect of these two interpersonal stressors across physical, social, mental and educational wellbeing outcomes. Within the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander research setting, although a strong base of research on the impact of racism has emerged, research on the impact of bullying is more recent. In addition, although there may be considerable overlap as to the individual impact of bullying and racism, racism research has identified a wider cultural/identity threat that bullying research (with a number of exceptions) has largely ignored.
An examination of existing literature suggests that both racism and bullying must be carefully understood with regard to the perspectives of those who are targeted by such stressors. Included within this understanding is the need to be sensitive to cultural differences with regard to both the types and effects of racism and bullying. From Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander perspectives, efforts to understand, and to lessen the prevalence of racism and bullying should also consider agents of strength and resiliency for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander youth, and that such consideration must be framed within the development of a culturally sensitive and secure environment (Coffin, 2008).