By Katie Thurber
Achieving social justice by overcoming social inequality is a burning complex problem. In research which aims to contribute to achieving social justice, what does it mean to move from a deficit discourse to a strengths-based approach? How does such a change impact on the understanding of social inequality, as well as on actions taken to overcome it?
I am part of a group researching Australian Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander health and we have been grappling with these questions. The issues are also more broadly relevant.
What is a deficit discourse?
A deficit discourse focuses on problems. A common example is the comparison of the group of interest to another social group that has better outcomes. The focus may be on the size of the gap between the groups.
A consequence of deficit discourse is constant negative portrayal of the group of interest.