Ways of Knowing, Being and Doing: A Theoretical Framework and Methods for Indigenous and Indigenist Re-Search (1). (Reconciling Knowledges)

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The myth of terra nullius implied that this country was uninhabited and terra nullius social policy supported by research enabled for the dispossession of knowledges of Indigenous peoples. It must be remembered that university curriculum, teaching methodologies and research endeavours have a history of development that contributed to this dispossession. Has the time come for change? (3)

Aboriginal writers Jackie Huggins, (4) Michael Dodson, (5) Rosemary van den Berg (6) and Lester Irabinna Rigney (7) argue that the quantity of research conducted in Aboriginal lands and on Aboriginal people since British invasion in the late 1770s is so immense that it makes us one of the most researched groups of people on earth. Natural scientists such as biologists, geologists and botanists have conducted research on Aboriginal lands to identify potential resources and, thus, economic value. Similarly, social scientists such as anthropologists` archaeologists, educators and psychologists have conducted research on Aboriginal people to establish our antiquity and humanity. Indeed, in some social science disciplines (8) we are over-researched, and this has generated mistrust, animosity and resistance from many Aboriginal people.

One reason for this reaction is that, until recent times, research conducted in Aboriginal lands was done without the permission, consultation, or involvement of Aboriginal people. (9) The same is especially true for research conducted on or about Aboriginal people generating what I call `terra nullius research'. In this research, we are present only as objects of curiosity and subjects of research, to be seen but not asked, heard or respected. So the research has been undertaken in the same way Captain James Cook falsely claimed the eastern coast of the land to become known as Australia as terra nullius.

This issue of terra nullius has been at the heart of Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal relations since colonisation, and while over the course of some two hundred and thirty-plus years, representing some five generations of Aboriginal people, much has been achieved, much more remains to be done. The traditions of western research have recently come under scrutiny from Aboriginal academics, researchers and thinkers. This critique of western research programs has resulted in Aboriginal writers and theorists reframing western research experiences to develop our own research paradigms and programs. This paper discusses the Indigenist research framework (10) used in a research study with the people of far north Queensland. But first there are protocols to observe.


   The protocol for introducing one's self to other Indigenous people
   is to provide information about one's cultural location, so that
   connection can be made on political, cultural and social grounds and
   relations established. (11)

As in the above words of a fellow Quandamooka woman and in accordance with the customs of my people, I provide the following details:

   My name is Karen Martin. I am the youngest of seven children in the
   family of George and Ruby Martin (nee Holt). My Father is a
   Noonuccal man from Minjeripah--the land, waterways, skies and
   spiritual systems  of North Stradbroke Island. My Mother is a
   Bidjara woman whose ancestral land is the north-eastern area of
   Carnarvon Gorge, central Queensland. I am a Noonuccal woman with
   ancestral ties to Bidjara land and come from a tradition of artists,
   weavers, educators, storytellers, healers and law people. By
   qualification I am a teacher of young children and their families,
   and I have worked in various education roles where I developed
   policy and curricula and advice for education systems based on the
   expressed needs and aspirations of Indigenous people of Queensland.
   I have written and lectured in subjects of Indigenous studies at
   university, designed and conducted numerous professional development
   programs and cross-cultural awareness programs with clients ranging
   from the Playgroup Association to the Queensland Police Service and
   teachers of Aboriginal children. …