Date of Award
Schools and Centres
Arts & Sciences
Professor Neil Drew
Professor Lynette Henderson-Yates
As a result of the enduring legacy of negative Australian history and culturally inappropriate past research practices, Aboriginal peoples are generally suspicious and mistrusting of research and researchers, particularly non-Indigenous researchers. Poor relations, paternalistic policies, racial discrimination and the inherent unequal power distribution in research relationships has seen many Aboriginal communities exploited, studied as ‘the other’, robbed of intellectual property, sacred artefacts and human remains. The introduction of ethical research guidelines in recent times has since improved contemporary researcher practices; however the lack of grassroots Aboriginal community consultation regarding appropriate, culturally competent research practices led the researcher to ask Aboriginal peoples from the Kimberley region of WA their experiences, values, beliefs and insights regarding research and researchers, in particular non-Aboriginal researchers. Fourteen Aboriginal participants and one non-Aboriginal participant, all with varying past research experiences, were interviewed in Broome and Fitzroy Crossing, Western Australia. Results indicate that although participant responses were consistent with formal published guidelines, a number of gaps were identified. The major themes identified in participant interviews reflect: negative history and background understandings, rationales, agendas and vested interests, relationships, dialogue, time and timing, collaboration, partnership and negotiation, power and control, informed consent, understandings and awareness, appropriate researchers, cultural awareness, reflexivity, ownership, intellectual property, acknowledgement and commercialisation, outcomes, accountability, and ethical research. Community awareness of the existence and content of standardised research guidelines is minimal, and guideline accessibility was found to be poor. Researchers must reflect and reconsider their position and the position of Aboriginal participants in research partnerships to honour decolonising research practices, the deconstruction of whiteness and the redistribution of power. A need for research accountability and an enhanced capacity to enforce research guidelines is recommended. Further research into this topic is also recommended. The research findings are to be utilised in the policy development of Nulungu: The University of Notre Dame Australia’s Centre for Indigenous Studies, Broome Campus.
Taaffe, L. (2008). Research in Aboriginal contexts: Kimberley voices (Honours Dissertation). University of Notre Dame Australia, Fremantle, WA.