Indigenous accountability: How can all research be more accountable to First Nations people?

Professional research associations have been encouraging, and more recently mandating, that researchers contribute to the transformative processes of decolonisation, emancipation and empowerment of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples. The Australian Association for Research in Education (AARE), for example, now requires all presentations to explicitly state how they have adhered to Indigenous protocols and epistemologies. This requirement does not necessitate that researchers reject effective methodologies but rather that they interrogate how these methodologies may be put to service in the transformation of colonial power.

This presentation illustrates this process using a current linkage project, Engaging Families in Early Education. The project aims to contribute to knowledge about effective service delivery in high poverty contexts. Our work in high poverty contexts means we need to consider Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people as potential participants, so we have been concerned about Indigenous protocols across many projects over time. We have passed each and every aspect of our methodology through the eye of the needle of Indigenous epistemologies and will discuss our findings. It is our hope that AARE’s call for researchers to account for the impact of their work on Indigenous peoples will be taken up by other professional associations.

Dr BJ Newton is a Research Fellow at the UNSW Social Policy Research Centre specialising in qualitative inquiry, Indigenous research methods and child protection research and policy. BJ's particular area of interest is in developing the knowledge and evidence-base of Aboriginal people from their perspective, particularly in the area of child protection, using participatory and community-based methods. She has extensive experience interviewing disadvantaged population groups and stakeholders in professional roles and has worked on many domestic and family violence research and evaluation projects. BJ is also a cultural student advisor for Indigenous Social Work students at UNSW, providing cultural supervision, mentoring and support. BJ is a proud Wiradjuri woman.

Dr Jen Skattebol has been a researcher at the UNSW Social Policy Research Centre since 2007. Prior to this appointment, Dr Skattebol held an academic position in the School of Education at UWS. Her research explores issues of economic inequality how inequalities are produced, reproduced, and resisted at the nexus of family and education practices. This work explores the ways young people manage tensions between family and school and other services and how services might be more responsive to the needs of people who experience disadvantaged. Dr Skattebol has led many projects on education in high poverty contexts and been involved in a range of projects about poverty in the lives of young people.

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