‘Forgotten world highway, forgotten people’ : a qualitative research project exploring the experience of poverty in a rural community. (2021)
Type of ContentTheses / Dissertations
Thesis DisciplineSocial Work
Degree NameDoctor of Philosophy
PublisherUniversity of Canterbury
Poverty has been an intractable issue in Aotearoa New Zealand throughout this century, particularly for families/whānau with children. The tentacles of poverty spread into all aspects of daily life making it a significant issue for social work. While recent poverty research in Aotearoa New Zealand has a predominantly urban lens, this study focuses on living rurally while being poor. This thesis provides insights into the intersection of poverty and rurality in Taranaki’s Stratford District through a qualitative thematic analysis. It uses these insights to develop a framework for social work practice with the rural poor in Aotearoa New Zealand.
The research design of this qualitative study is informed by critical theory and feminist perspectives. Both perspectives also enable an analysis of power within society and consider oppression experienced by marginalised populations. I interviewed twenty-eight people living in a rural community in Taranaki using a semi-structured approach. At the same time, I kept a detailed field-work journal. The subsequent thematic analysis of interview transcripts and field-work notes yielded the four main themes that structure the findings section of this thesis.
Participants in this study used a wide range of creative strategies to manage daily life. However, the participants often went without and put their children’s needs and the needs of others ahead of their own. Geography influenced participant experience of poverty as the rural poor contended with transport issues and had difficulties accessing services, health care, employment, and education. Additionally, stigma was experienced and internalised by some participants and accounts of intimate partner violence and structural violence were prevalent. A framework for poverty-informed social work practice is proposed as an outcome of this research and suggestions are made for social work education and social work practice with the rural poor.
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