MHDCD Project

8.4 Findings

This section sets out the findings of the qualitative interviews conducted during 2012 and 2013 with Aboriginal people with MHDCD,[1] their families and carers, and relevant Aboriginal Community Controlled Organisations and other service providers in New South Wales and the Northern Territory. The data is compiled into five overarching themes that emerged from the process of detailed and comprehensive analysis of the data, illustrated by key quotes from interviewees.  These five overarching themes represent experiences found to be common amongst Indigenous people with MHDCD who have come into contact with the criminal justice system, across all the communities that were part of this study. The findings are elaborated in terms of their varying implications for Indigenous people with MHDCD, community members, carers, organisations and service providers, with many interviewees identifying with two or more of these categories. The voices and experiences of Aboriginal women and men with MHDCD in the criminal justice system are a primary focus and Aboriginal community-based solutions are highlighted, in keeping with our research methodology. Communities and individual quotes are anonymised, with a general descriptor used, in order to avoid singling out or stigmatising particular individuals or communities.


[1] At the outset of this study, our research team used ‘MHDCD’ (mental health disorders and cognitive disability) to describe the diagnoses and experiences of a particular group of people in the criminal justice system. Whilst working on this study, the terms ‘complex needs’, ‘complex support needs’, ‘mental and cognitive impairment’ and ‘mental and cognitive disability’ have also emerged as having currency or relevance in different contexts. In this section, these terms are used mostly interchangeably, dependent on interviewees’ terminology and context and our emerging analysis of the qualitative data. This chapter also refers to ‘Aboriginal’ rather than ‘Indigenous’, as this was how interviewees in NSW and the NT identified themselves and their communities. 

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