Mental Health Nursing Practice and Indigenous Australians: A Multi-Sited Ethnography
Criticism of public mental services provided to Indigenous Australians have persisted over the last two decades, despite several national reports and policies that have attempted to promote positive service change. Mental health nurses represent the largest professional group practising within these services. This paper reports on a multi-sited ethnography of mental health nursing practice as it relates to this group of mental health service users. It explores the beliefs and ideas that nurses identified about specialist mental health nursing practice and Indigenous Australians. The study found a disunited approach to practice during the fieldwork. Practice was expressed as a series of individual constructions built upon the nurses' beliefs about Indigenous Australians and their experiences in practice with these peoples. The criticism of mental health services from Indigenous communities was understandable to the mental health nurses, but how they could address this through their individual practices was not always clear to them. The actions by public mental health services to improve cultural safety through generic training related to the broad area of Indigenous health and health service needs, does not appear to evolve into informed specialist mental health nursing practice for Indigenous Australian service users.