Action Research about Good Practice by Aboriginal Hospital Liaison Officers and Social Workers in Hospitals in Victoria.


  • Liz Karen Orr Lowitja Institute PhD Scholarship Holder. La Trobe University Australia's National Research Organisation for Women's Safety(ANROWS)


Good Practice, Aboriginal Hospital Liaison Officer, Hospital Social Work


This article describes the methodology developed for a PhD study to explore the perceptions of Aboriginal Hospital Liaison Officers (AHLOs)and non-Aboriginal social workers about what they understand to be good practice in their work that leads to the best possible outcomes for Aboriginal patients in hospitals in Victoria.

A methodology that would facilitate building relationships and trust with Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal people in a short time and within the structured setting of hospitals was essential. Integral to the action research study design was the involvement of research informants and other Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal people with knowledge about supporting Aboriginal patients in hospitals in the scoping, data analysis, and presentation of findings. 

The sustained contribution of an Aboriginal Critical Reference Group was a critical factor for guiding the research to support implementation of Indigenous research principles and meeting NHMRC ethical guidelines for Indigenous health research

Ethical considerations, the theoretical position and values of the researcher, and an explanation of the research design to address the question are outlined with the aim of sharing a practice example of action research. Participants shared experiences of working with Aboriginal people across general, specialist, urban, and regional hospitals in Victoria. The diverse narratives of good practice confirmed that there is a specific sociocultural practice with Aboriginal people in hospitals across Victoria. Focussing on the strengths reported in the practice of AHLOs and social workers, principles for good practice with Aboriginal patients, their families, and their communities, were drawn from the study and are briefly summarised at the end of the article to indicate what the action research methodology facilitated.

Author Biography

Liz Karen Orr, Lowitja Institute PhD Scholarship Holder. La Trobe University Australia's National Research Organisation for Women's Safety(ANROWS)

Liz Orr leads the ANROWS Action Research Support project.  With a substantial action research track record, Liz has a strong commitment to improving outcomes among women, especially women affected by other forms of inequality and exclusion (e.g. racism, poverty). This is demonstrated by positions as the Evaluation Manager at the Secretariat National Aboriginal and Islander Child Care (SNAICC) and as a Senior Project officer with the Stronger Families Learning Exchange at the Australian Institute of Family Studies (AIFS). In both of these positions she collaboratively designed and facilitated action research training and worked alongside a broad range of community providers to implement action research evaluation.  Liz also has significant experience as a service provider and researcher in the Violence Against Women sector, including contributing to the development of service models against sexual assault at West CASA and CASA House, leading a multi-cultural Family Violence Outreach Team at Women’s Health West in Melbourne and contirubting to the development of strategies to prevent and respond to violence against women and their childrfen in the health, housing, and community service sectors.