In Sydney, we collaborated with three refugee-background women co-researchers originally from Iraq who migrated between five and 15 years ago, to explore meanings of home and processes of home-making during resettlement. We walked with each co-researcher around her neighbourhood, exploring and talking about places and spaces that symbolise ‘home’ and have shaped the experiences of creating a home in Australia. By walking along familiar routes, we hoped to learn more about women’s stories of home-making, diverse meanings of home and relevant metaphors, and factors that help create home, from formal structures and services, to social dynamics and relationships.
Walking interviews rarely begin with the walk itself, and it is important not to rush into the walks without careful attention to relationship-building.
Once co-researchers were ready to begin the walk, they decided where to start and the trajectory they wished to follow. They chose familiar places and routes that felt safe walking to, so maps were not needed. All walks occurred during daytime to minimize the potential to walk in places that might be considered unsafe. In participatory projects, co-researchers set the pace both figuratively and literally, and the duration of walks. Academic researchers can ask clarifying questions along the way, but their main role is to listen to the stories associated with each place and note visual and auditory prompts. Walking interviews rarely begin with the walk itself, and it is important not to rush into the walks without careful attention to relationship-building. Building trust and rapport are essential to successful walking interviews, and indeed can emerge more quickly while using mobile methods (Carpiano 2009), but the literature says little on pre-walk considerations.
Images and soundscapes recorded from a walking interview with Nedhal around her neighbourhood of Fairfield, Sydney, Australia. These images and sounds reflect meanings of home and experiences of place-making.
The focus on place lent itself to a sensory, mobile method. Based on previous research with refugee-background participants (Botfield et al. 2019), we identified that walking interviews would yield richer data. We documented in-depth narratives, and our co-researchers appreciated discussing at-times difficult topics while walking. We consciously chose a small group of co-researchers, given the time and logistics involved. Below are two videos that capture the images and sounds of home for each co-researcher. They both agreed to creating these short videos and to publicly sharing their stories.
Images and soundscapes recorded from a walking interview with Rooan around her neighbourhood of Liverpool, Sydney, Australia. These images and sounds reflect meanings of home experiences of place-making.
Field notes and references
Short Take: Walking Interviews with Refugee-background Women
Caroline Lenette and Josie Gardner
‘Behind each work there is a story of pain’: Nedhal’s art makes her happy. Blog post, Refugee Hosts, June 25, 2020.