University of Tasmania
Prehn_whole_thesis_ex_pub_mat.pdf (13.19 MB)

''We've always done it. Country is our counselling office'': masculinity, nature-based therapy, and the strengths of Aboriginal men

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posted on 2024-03-06, 00:51 authored by Jacob PrehnJacob Prehn

This thesis is an exploration of Aboriginal masculinity in Australia. No critical theory of nation-wide Aboriginal masculinity yet exists, although there have been some local and regional explorations of the subject. Having a deeper understanding of the intersection of Indigeneity and masculinity is crucial in re-shaping and re-framing the lives of Aboriginal men. Drawing on a qualitative study of nature-based therapy with 11 Aboriginal men in Tasmania, national survey data pertaining to Aboriginal fathers, national and international Indigenous masculinity scholarship, and utilising a strengths-based approach, this thesis develops a narrative of Aboriginal men in contemporary Australia, and posits two theories of Aboriginal masculinity.

The author of this thesis is an Aboriginal (Worimi) man, and as such adopts an Indigenous Standpoint in research. This standpoint directly shapes components of this research, from conceptualisation and data collection to analysis and dissemination. This is important in light of the ongoing tensions between Aboriginal people and Australian settler-colonial state—tensions which often result in settler worldviews (inclusive of epistemology, ontology, and axiology) being prioritised in research and knowledge formation, to the detriment and marginalisation of Aboriginal worldviews. The core component of this thesis is a qualitative study of a sample of Aboriginal men which sought to understand how nature-based therapy can enhance their health and wellbeing. There is a dearth of studies exploring the effects of nature-based therapy programs for Aboriginal men, despite the natural world being a vital component of Aboriginal culture and identity. This study found that there are four key benefits for Aboriginal men when participating in nature-based therapy programs. Firstly, nature-based therapy can provide holistic improvements to participant health and wellbeing. Secondly, nature-based therapy programs assist Aboriginal men to spend time on Country and practise Aboriginal culture. Thirdly, nature-based therapy programs contribute to the establishment, enhancement, and maintenance of healthy social connections. Finally, nature-based therapy provides space for Aboriginal men to freely express components of their masculinity without marginalisation from settler-colonial society.

The second part of this thesis is presented in two publications, each drawing on data from the Longitudinal Study of Indigenous Children (LSIC) and focusing on Aboriginal (and Torres Strait Islander) fathers. The first publication considers Indigenous cultural practices from the standpoint of Indigenous fathers; the transmission of these practices to their children is a component which assists them in growing up strong. The second publication considers the Aboriginal (and Torres Strait Islander) fathering deficit narrative, and explores data which suggest that Indigenous fathers are positively involved in their children's education.

Together, these studies demonstrate the need for Aboriginal men to have 'place and space': place on Country, and safe spaces in which to share culture and worldviews and to express and value their masculinity.



  • PhD Thesis


xix, 371 pages


School of Social Sciences


University of Tasmania

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Copyright 2021 the author.


Chapter 2 appears to be the equivalent of a pre-print version of an article published as: Prehn, J., Ezzy, D., 2020. Decolonising the health and well-being of Aboriginal men in Australia, Journal of sociology, 56(2), 151-166. Reuse is restricted to non-commercial and no derivative uses. Chapter 10 appears to be the equivalent of a pre-print version of an article published as: Prehn, J., Guerzoni, M. A., Peacock, H., 2021. 'Learning her culture and growing up strong' : Aboriginal and/or Torres Strait Islander fathers, children and the sharing of culture, Journal of sociology, 57(3), 595-611 Reuse is restricted to non-commercial and no derivative uses.

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