Understanding white privilege and its legacy in Australia

  • Kerrie Nelson

    Student thesis: Master's Thesis


    The particular focus of my research is to understand white privilege and its legacy, and as it relates to my early informal and formal experiences and lifetime of work with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples in remote, regional and urban Australian settings from 1981 to2021. Consideration of a creative memoir of my working life as a white, middle-class Australian caused me to reflect on my own privileges and the relative disadvantage of the Indigenous Australians I worked with in the fields of adult education, community development, public administration and governance. This study explores the complexities of intercultural work and contributes to the development of strategies to address systemic issues arising from unearned privileges in society, making particular use of terms and concepts articulated by American academic, Peggy McIntosh, in 1988. Using the analogy of a journey of discovery, inspired by Jackie Huggins, and McIntosh’s ‘invisible knapsack’, this study ‘unpacks’ my backpack of white privilege in societal systems marked by white supremacy. It provides a lens for examining the implications for intercultural work, relationships and institutional change. It also provides insights into successful developmental approaches that I believe work well and that I have consistently adopted since first working in the field forty years ago—by always working with Indigenous peoples and adopting a range of approaches that are people-centred and participatory. In contemporary Australia, this study provides alternative strategies for intercultural workers to consider, adopt and adapt.
    Date of Award2021
    Original languageEnglish
    SupervisorPaul Hetherington (Supervisor), Jen Webb (Supervisor), Jason Flanagan (Supervisor) & Paul Munden (Supervisor)

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