This thesis looks at an Aboriginal caring centre called the Aboriginal Community Elders Services (ACES), and investigates local conceptualizations of the need for culturally appropriated health services in an urban setting. The ACES is situated in Melbourne, Australia. The fieldwork was carried out for six months in 2004.
The main focus of this thesis is the particular philosophy and healing strategy of the ACES. It also explores Aboriginal health care choices, motivations and legitimation of the centre seen in light of relevant contexts of historical, cultural and political trajectories. During the fieldwork period, the Liberal Federal Government announced a new mainstreaming policy of Aboriginal services. Based on Aboriginal avoidance of mainstream services, this thesis looks at differences between the ACES as a health care system and the western biomedical health care system. In order to understand Aboriginal health care choices, Aboriginal conceptualizations of illness, body and pain are examined.
By exploring local rights and needs to health care, this thesis looks at how Aboriginal health discourse concerning physical and emotional pain is articulated. It also looks at how the ACES had (re)constructed an Aboriginal identity which created a sense of unity and empowerment of local Aboriginal people as a group, in order to justify the organizations existence.