Academic journal article Australian Aboriginal Studies

Giving Back: Report on the 'Collaborative Research in Indigenous Geographies' Workshop, AIATSIS, Canberra, 30 June 2015

Academic journal article Australian Aboriginal Studies

Giving Back: Report on the 'Collaborative Research in Indigenous Geographies' Workshop, AIATSIS, Canberra, 30 June 2015

Article excerpt

Collaborative research in Indigenous geographies encompasses a wide range of approaches, practices and relationships in multiple contexts. Working collaboratively on creating and applying knowledges presents some very significant challenges-- conceptually, methodologically, logistically and organisationally. Cognisant of these challenges, and the opportunities that collaborative research brings, the Institute of Australian Geographers (IAG) Indigenous Peoples' Knowledges and Rights Study Group held a workshop, 'Giving back: collaborative research in Indigenous geographies'. The workshop was held at, and co-sponsored by, AIATSIS in Canberra as part of the lead-up to the 2015 IAG conference. The workshop was attended by 30 Indigenous and non-Indigenous researchers.

Impetus for the workshop came from Macquarie University researchers involved in an Australian Research Council Discovery Project, which has developed in collaboration with Aboriginal community researchers in three New South Wales rural towns. With that project--in the fifth year of a three-year project--drawing to a close (at least in its formal, funded phase), the workshop was an opportunity to bring together Aboriginal community members, the researchers, academic colleagues and others engaged in similar research elsewhere in Australia to share insights and compare experiences and perspectives. The Macquarie-based project, which has revisited Janice Monk's 1965 research in rural New South Wales (Monk 1972, 1974), is returning household survey data collected 50 years ago, creating a research archive for community participants, and evaluating the impact on Indigenous populations of socio-economic change in some of those towns in the intervening years. The project involved local community members in the return of the Monk archival material and developing research skills to conduct qualitative research interviews for current research. Indigenous people collaborating on the project identified the value of receiving data from the archives for their oral histories, including family stories and photographs of people who are no longer with them, but the process also raised complex ethical questions that stimulated and contributed to a wide-ranging discussion on ethical issues in Indigenous collaborative research.

In the one-day 'Giving back' workshop the morning was dedicated to informal presentation and discussion of projects that the participants were involved in. This included a presentation of the Monk project and collaborations in rural New South Wales, regional Western Australia, north-east Arnhem Land and across the Western Australia--Northern Territory border. The informal afternoon session identified themes and challenges involved in collaborative research projects. The last session for the day was a talking circle, facilitated by Janet Hunt (Australian National University), which discussed projects and reflected on key issues in collaborative research that arose in the workshop.

There was diverse input from the group on experiences in research collaboration and the nature of the debate about community collaborative research. Common themes included:

* how discussions of research and structure can place Indigenous peoples and community priorities at the centre of Indigenous research projects

* how project governance (including ethics oversight) can foster research leadership to support communities to set their own research agenda

* how to encourage and secure academic (and institutional) support for community development approaches to research.

Everyday realities of Indigenous peoples

Participants affirmed the importance of connections with and responsiveness to the everyday realities of Indigenous peoples in Australia as a foundation for building collaborative research relationships that have lasting value. Those relationships are, of course, impacted by issues from both Indigenous and academic domains. …

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