Finding a culturally appropriate research approach to alcohol, drugs and the family – examples from New Zealand

First published: 10 May 2019 | Last updated: 20 May 2019

Trish Gledhill

NZ Reg Occupational Therapist, Member ANZASW,MA Childhood and Youth Studies

Trish lives in Hawke’s Bay, New Zealand with her partner and four sons. She is Director and founding Trustee of Kina Families and Addictions Trust, a national organisation promoting Family Inclusive Practice in the Addictions sector through advocacy, programme development, practitioner support and training. Trish has extensive experience working with families, groups, children and young people in the Mental Health, Addictions, Family Violence and Education fields. With a passion about resilience  in youth, children and families,  she developed the first children’s programme for Addiction Services Hawke’s Bay and authored ‘21 Fun Street Kool Kids – Therapeutic group programmes for children living with addiction’. She has since conducted research on young people and resilience and frequently conducts training and presentations on Kina Family Inclusive Practices.


Helen Moriarty, University of Otago, PO Box 7343 Wellington South, New Zealand

Helen Moriarty graduated in Medicine from the University of Otago in 1976. She has had an unusual medical career extending over 35 years, with qualifications, training and experience in five different specialty disciplines during that time: in Geriatric Rehabilitation, Primary Care, Sexual Health Medicine, Public Health and Addiction Medicine.

Helen now combines all of that training and clinical experience to enrich her clinical teaching and research at University of Otago: coordinating and teaching undergraduate and postgraduate programmes in Clinical Reasoning and especially in Addiction Medicine and fostering research in each of these underdeveloped specialty areas.

Helen is also Medical Officer of Health for Medicines Control (a role entailing monitoring of prescription drugs of abuse), a member of Expert Advisory Committee on Drugs (an advisory body for the New Zealand Ministry of Health, and a member of Council on the Alcohol Advisory Council (a governance role).

Her extensive publications list reflects her multidisciplinary medical science back-ground and wide-ranging research interests. Helen’s research interests extend from health service quality indicators, benchmarking, health economics and mathematical modeling to research in to health professional teaching, workforce development and selected addiction topics, especially into identified service gaps such as family responsive practice.

Presenters will provide some information about the New Zealand –specific research environment: stakeholders, funders and current research activity, briefly outline local research-informed knowledge on families and addiction, specifically focusing on the current gaps and discuss historical pitfalls in cross culturally research.

Two recent New Zealand research examples will presented in some detail. The first project, “Living with Addiction” , was an exploratory study of issues for New Zealand families living with addiction, using traditional qualitative research methodology.  The second, “Whanau yesterday, today and tomorrow”, represents the new epistemological and methodological approach to culturally appropriate social research being promoted in New Zealand. This research example was driven by, for, with and including Maori (NZ indigenous peoples).

The implications of the movement toward more culturally appropriate research engagement with population subgroups will be discussed. Parallels will be drawn with the 2000 Velleman et al report “Worrying for drinkers in the family” on research with Australian indigenous families.

Presenters ask what can be learnt from these past and current research projects, in the quest to find a more culturally appropriate approach to researching alcohol, drugs and the family.


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Ms Trish Gledhill