Participation of children with disabilities in a remote Northern Territory community

Miss Felicity  Pidgeon1, Miss  Hannah  Johnston1

1Office Of Disability – Top End Remote, Darwin, Australia


In 2013, a group of Top End remote allied health staff identified a lack of research around disability and participation in remote Aboriginal communities. This was the beginning of a research collaboration between Top End Remote staff and a small group of families in a remote, Arnhem land community. This collaboration began with two years of community engagement (2013 – 2015), enabling the team to yarn about the project with community leaders, parents and caregivers, children with disabilities and service providers. Through this process, the team worked with community members to develop a shared understanding of ‘disability’ and ‘participation’. A team of linguists, translators and interpreters were engaged to assist with exploring these concepts and to develop audio resources about the project.

Data collection occurred in 2015 – 2017, through family’s use of Ipads to collect video footage of daily activities, followed by semi-structured interviews. Over time, the process has evolved, based on feedback from participants and learnings of the research team. Key learnings about the research process include i) the importance of understanding a child’s connection to family, kin and country; ii) developing a shared understanding of the child’s disability and how this came to be; iii) flexibility in all aspects of the research process; iv) a focus on strengths, achievement and resilience; v) data collection through shared activities and vi) the importance of reciprocity and giving back to clients and families. Research findings are emerging, as the data continues to be coded, analysed and discussed with participants.


Felicity has 10 years experience working as an Occupational Therapist in remote, Northern Territory communities. She has broad experience with clients across the lifespan and spent a number of years as the primary aged and disability contact for Maningrida community.

Hannah has worked with Office of Disability since 2011 as a paediatric Physiotherapist and more recently, as the Paediatric Clinical Leader. She travels to a number of different Top End Remote communities.

Hannah and Felicity have worked closely together since the research project commenced in 2013.