Proudfoot_whole_thesis.pdf (2.76 MB)
Cultural difference: how race shapes the management of indigenous tenants within social housing service provision
thesisposted on 2023-05-27, 09:02 authored by Fiona ProudfootFiona Proudfoot
Mainstream housing service providers are increasingly involved in the provision of housing services to Indigenous tenants, however there has been little investigation of how housing staff manage and experience the intercultural dimension of this. The thesis investigates how service providers construct and understand cultural difference in relation to their own racial identities, and the influence this has on their interactions with Indigenous tenants. Through exploration of racial subjectivities and professional understandings of housing officers this research illuminates the ways in which racial sameness and difference between service providers and Indigenous service users and tenants impacts on social housing service provision at the frontline. The findings suggest that respondents' communication and contact with Indigenous people as well as their capacity and willingness to reflect on and recognise the influence their own race and cultural mores have on their practice are critical factors in shaping their engagement with Indigenous service users and tenants. The findings have several policy, practice and theoretical implications. They demonstrate how social housing service providers work in the 'space between' their own subjective values, housing policy directives and institutional requirements. This involves negotiating the potential 'risk' that Indigenous cultural demands and responsibilities present for the management of Indigenous tenancies. This 'risk' is framed up within the demands and limitations of mainstream housing policy agendas that require Indigenous tenants to adopt lifestyle choices and behaviours that are more reflective of the broader white society. Findings suggest flexibility for Indigenous cultural practices within policy regulations may ease the tensions and conflicts that are often present for service providers managing Indigenous tenancies. This thesis contributes to theoretical scholarship that places white normative values and assumptions at the centre of Indigenous marginalisation and disadvantage, thereby disrupting unidimensional understandings of race inequality. The inclusion of whiteness as a social category contests its assumptions of being the normative, invisible and often uncontested benchmark for Indigenous peoples to be measured against. Cultural difference can then be conceptualised as axes of differentiation rather than different 'from' the hegemonic standard. This is especially important in the Australian context where white mainstream housing policy objectives, organisational procedures and professional interactions continue to oppress and impact the daily lives and housing outcomes of Indigenous Australians.
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