Sensitive Research and Vulnerable Participants: Accessing and Conducting Research with African Australian Teenage Mothers in Greater Melbourne, Australia

Dr Mimmie Ngum Chi Watts, Prof Pranee Liamputtong Phd


with African born immigrants, predominantly those
with a refugee background. Focus has been on refugee
experiences, health issues and settlement prior to and
after arrival in Australia. Little has been written about
accessing and conducting research with African
Australian migrants. This paper provides reflective
discussions on how to successfully access and do
research with Australians of African descent.
Methods and research participants
This qualitative study is situated within the cultural
competency framework. In-depth interviews and focus
group discussions were conducted with African
Australian teenage mothers (16) and key informants
(five). A focus group was conducted with service
providers/key informants who worked and provided
services to African refugees/families and a second with
six African mothers/key informants with a refugee
background in Greater Melbourne.
There are several salient issues regarding accessing this
group of migrants that emerge from our research.
These include: locating participants and gaining access;
cultural knowledge; trust and sensitivity to the issue(s)
under study; relationships and networks; research
knowledge by participants; acceptance of the researcher
by the community and vice versa. Understanding of
their lives and acknowledgement of previous research
experiences by African descent persons and minority
groups is vital for effective engagement with vulnerable
We conclude that culture sensitivity, cultural awareness
and knowledge, the ‘appropriate’ person, good rapport,
and trust on the part of the researcher will yield positive
outcomes. In addition race/ethnicity, gender,
personal/shared experiences and respect of participants
all contribute to positive outcomes.

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