Original Research

Emotional reactions to concepts of racism and white privilege in non-Aboriginal professionals working in remote Aboriginal communities


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Caitlin Prince
1 (Non-Indigenous) MPSR, Lecturer * ORCID logo


1 School of Allied Health Science and Practice, University of Adelaide, Adelaide, South Australia, Australia

ACCEPTED: 12 November 2023

Caitlin Prince: Emotional reactions to racism and white privilege in non-Aboriginal professionals

early abstract:

Objectives: This research, conducted by a non-Aboriginal, white researcher, examines how health professionals working in remote Aboriginal communities engage with antiracism as instructed by national standards, whether strong emotions are elicited while reflecting on these concepts and how these reactions impact antiracist professional practice.  
Method: Eleven non-Indigenous allied health professionals were interviewed in a semi-structured format. Interviews were transcribed, thematically analysed and compared against existing literature.
Results: Every participant identified overwhelming emotions that they linked to reflecting on racism, white privilege and colonisation. Professionals reported grappling with denial, anger, guilt, shame, fear, anxiety and perfectionism, loss of belonging, disgust, and care. They reported these emotions caused overwhelm, exhaustion, tensions with colleagues and managers, disengagement from antiracism efforts, and contributed to staff turmoil and turnover.
Conclusion: Previously these emotional reactions and their impact on antiracism have only been described in the context of universities and by antiracist activists. This research identifies for the first time that these reactions also occur in health services in Aboriginal communities.
Implications: Wider research is needed to better understand how these reactions impact health service delivery to Aboriginal communities, and to evaluate ways of supporting staff to constructively navigate these reactions and develop antiracist, decolonised professional practice.
Keywords: Aboriginal communities, cultural competency, organisational culture, racism, remote Australia, systemic racism.