Best practice in Indigenous research: the role of cultural competency in building relationships, trust and cooperation between Indigenous communities and researchers

Year: 2013

Author: Gower, Graeme, Lummis, Geoff, Lock, Graeme

Type of paper: Abstract refereed

Historically, research in Indigenous Australian contexts has been controlled and dominated by non-Indigenous researchers. In the 1980s & 1990s, publications began to appear which revealed cultural insensitivities, exploitation of Indigenous subjects, concerns over ownership of Indigenous knowledge and, inappropriate research methodologies used by non-Indigenous researchers.
Since the 1990s, there has been a proliferation of ethical research guidelines for the conduct of research involving Aboriginal & Torres Strait Islander people including those from the National Health & Medical Research Council, Australian Institute for Aboriginal & Torres Strait Islander Studies, various government departments & Aboriginal agencies.
These new guidelines and protocols have signalled changes in practices in Indigenous research and a shift towards Indigenous ownership over research via reciprocal & partnership agreements in research. Furthermore, a growing number of Indigenous academics & researchers are now participating in research and are guiding research practice methodologies and, who are advocating the principles of self-determination, ownership & control over research.
These reforms in Indigenous research may result in some non-Indigenous researchers interpreting these changes as a threat to their academic freedom and as a consequence, may be unwilling to compromise, and or, may no longer wish to be involved in Indigenous research. There is support for non-Indigenous researchers to be involved in Indigenous research; however, this involvement must be based on partnerships that reflect the new Indigenous research reforms. So how can these qualities become ingrained and feature as best practice in Indigenous research? One approach which is being utilised in building relationships in a number of settings between individuals and organisations and the clients they serve is, "cultural competency."
This paper will discuss the important role that Indigenous cultural competency can play in building relationships, trust and cooperation between Indigenous communities and researchers in meeting the new research reforms.