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Contesting Representations of Refugee‑Background Women (and Men) as ‘Needy’ and ‘Problematic’ in Healthcare Literature in Aotearoa New Zealand: Advancing the Case for a Capability‑Driven Model

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posted on 2023-03-14, 23:31 authored by Ford, Kristine Mary

This research analyses how power operates discursively within the western biomedical model as it pertains to the representations and treatment of refugee‑background women (and men) in Aotearoa New Zealand. It carefully investigates the tendency of current biomedical discourse to typecast women (and men) with refugee backgrounds as having considerable health needs, which predicates the (over‑) representation of them as exclusively ‘problematic’ and ‘needy’ throughout refugee and healthcare related literature. It also considers other ways in which the western biomedical model may be inappropriate and inadequate for refugee‑background communities. This thesis takes its starting position from some of the concerns regarding health outcomes raised in a meeting with three representatives of various refugee‑background communities in Wellington in 2011, and by the recent ChangeMakers Refugee Forum (CRF) (2011) report, “barriers to achieving good health outcomes in refugee‑background communities”. In light of these concerns (and subsequent recommendations), this research aims to introduce alternative narratives in the effort to improve health outcomes, as well as constitute a more fair and just discourse. The mentation of the thesis is heavily inspired by postdevelopment theory and its potential for more enabling and effective ways of ‘doing’ development. I draw on this theoretical frame to explore how an asset‑based approach to maternal healthcare services in Aotearoa New Zealand for refugee‑background women may be a vehicle to help us negotiate the politics of representation and generate better health outcomes for refugee‑background communitiescomes for refugee‑background communities.


Copyright Date


Date of Award



Te Herenga Waka—Victoria University of Wellington

Rights License

Author Retains Copyright

Degree Discipline

Development Studies

Degree Grantor

Te Herenga Waka—Victoria University of Wellington

Degree Level


Degree Name

Master of Development Studies

Victoria University of Wellington Item Type

Awarded Research Masters Thesis



Victoria University of Wellington School

School of Geography, Environment and Earth Sciences


Kindon, Sara