Breaking the Barriers: Transformative
Research and Knowledge Translation to
improve Aboriginal Health and Wellbeing
Roz Walker, Juli Coffin, Dawn Bessarab, Pat Dudgeon,
Rhonda Marriott
Centre for Research Excellence in Aboriginal Health and Wellbeing
at the AITSIS Breaking the Barriers in Indigenous Research and
Thinking: 50 years on
25-26 March 2014
Outline of presentation
• CRE rationale aims and objectives
• CRE - who are we?
- 10 Chief Investigators/CRE Coordinator
• Transformative Methodologies
– Participant Action Research (PAR)
– Decolonising methodologies and approaches
• Projects
• Findings and Challenges
CRE Rationale
– Inadequate engagement with Aboriginal people,
communities and organisations, resulting in
unsustainable, inappropriate, ineffective services
and programs (Silburn et al 2006);
– Lack of understanding of the variability of human
capability and community readiness in Aboriginal
populations as a consequence of poverty, illness,
incarceration, low self esteem, stolen generation
trauma (Stanley 2008; Zubrick et al 2005);
– Lack of commitment, understanding and capacity
among mainstream services and staff;
– Pervasive systemic, organisational and individual
racism (Coffin 2007; Dudgeon 2009).
CREAHW – Who are we
Professor Fiona Stanley,
Winthrop Professor Dawn Bessarab,
Associate Professor Juli Coffin,
Professor Pat Dudgeon,
Professor Sandra Eades,
Dr Cheryl Kickett-Tucker,
Professor Rhonda Marriott,
Mr Glenn Pearson,
Associate Professor Roz Walker
Dr Michael Wright
Ms Chrissie Easton – CREAHW Coordinator
Objectives of the CREAHW
• Generate new knowledge that leads to improved health
• Research and Knowledge Translation
• Ensure effective transfer of research outcomes into health
policy and/or practice
• Design, develop, apply and evaluate new tools.
• Facilitate collaboration
• Advance the training of researchers, with a capacity for
independent research and future leadership roles
• Develop, recruit, support and mentor Aboriginal and nonAboriginal postgraduate students
Aim to develop and apply decolonising
Aboriginal research methodologies which:
- encompass both qualitative and
quantitative research methods
- emphasise community engagement and
partnerships, and stakeholder
• Transformative /Decolonising Methods and
Methodologies – CPAR /advocacy
• Martin Nakata
• Linda Tuhiwai Smith
• Lester Rigney, Battiste
• Central to the discussion regarding the
development of a truly transformative research
agenda is the process of decolonisation.
• For Aboriginal people ‘research is inextricably
linked to European imperialism and colonialism'
(Tuhiwai Smith,1999).
De-colonising research
‘decolonising research isn’t about a total rejection of
Western theory research knowledge. It is about changing
focus, centring our concerns and worldviews and coming
to know and under-stand theory and research from our
own perspectives and for our own purposes.’
taking colonization seriously changes antiracism in
powerful ways. Within academia, antiracist theorists need
to begin to make ongoing colonization central to the
construction of knowledge about race and racism. They
must learn to write, research and teach in ways that
account for Indigenous realities as foundational’.
Lawrence, B. & Dua, E. (2005).
The process of decolonization requires our
continual efforts toward questioning and
revealing hidden colonial influences in the
past and current beliefs and practices,
those of the haole (or foreigner) as well
as those of our own Kanaka maoli
(indigenous people), including our kapuna
(elders), our ancestors, and ourselves.
Julie Kaomea, Dilemmas of an Indigenous Academic
CREAHW Research Program
The individual programs of research will
contribute to the evidence base regarding
strategies to:
– address racism,
– develop models of engagement of Aboriginal
– build the capacity of policy providers and receivers,
– increase the knowledge of the social determinants
of health impacting of Aboriginal health and
wellbeing, and,
– the implementation methods and strategies to
address them.
• PAR emerged in the 1960s and 1970s in work addressing
disadvantaged and marginalised (disenfanchised or voiceless)
groups /communities in developing countries, increasingly taken
up in research with Indigenous groups in colonised.
• A fundamental premise of PAR is that community members are
able to identify and analyse their problems and determine their
solutions and empowered to facilitate them.
• An additional underlying concept of the PAR states that solutions
that are proposed by members of the community and negotiated
by all parties concerned are more likely to be applied, compared
with solutions imposed by authorities or by external agents.
Core elements of CPAR
• Research includes the active participation
of the members of the community
• Issue being studied is identified by the
community – ground up,
• Periodic communication of findings to the
participants and
• group discussions, and interaction
between participants and between
researchers and
Recognising cultural connections
• Much of our research is embedded in
Aboriginal peoples’ deeply complex
connections to family and kinship
networks, culture, land, spirituality and
holistic understandings of health.
• Research approach works from where
the community is at.
• Applies Indigenous knowledge lens.
understanding of health
and well being
Establishing Partnerships
• With communities and with our Aboriginal
colleagues who conduct aspects of the qualitative
research collection
• Developing relationships within which to negotiate
the values, conceptual frameworks, methodologies,
and control of research, as well as for deciding
issues of ownership and dissemination of
• These partnerships require that Recognition,
Relevance, Respect, and Reciprocity are valued by
all parties and characteristics of the research
Chief Investigator
Dawn Bessarab
Developing a Family Assessment tool to include family in an
individuals treatment program with Milliya Rumurra a
Aboriginal community based rehabilitation centre for
Alcohol and Drugs in Broome.
Roz Walker
Rhonda Marriott
(FS JC & RW)
Julie Coffin
Pat Dudgeon
Strengthening Maternal and Child Health in the Pilbara
Embedding cultural competence in the health sector
Promoting positive perinatal mental health, parenting,
cultural and spiritual wellbeing, and resilience in young
Aboriginal parents residing in three locations in Western
Cultural security of Aboriginal mothers birthing in urban
maternity facilities and the cultural competency, workforce
and education needs of midwives .
SKSS Bullying Prevention Project Extension: Formative Social
Marketing Campaign (SKSSII)
Cultural Security across the health sector
National Empowerment (Mental Health and social and
emotional wellbeing and policy advocacy
Practical examples
• Research using a strength-based
approach to support and enhance the
protective elements of good family
• Holistic programs that work to
simultaneously to strengthen
Aboriginal family functioning and
address risk factors
Key Findings and Challenges
• Indigenous culture, social reality and living
circumstances add a layer of complexity when
considering the broader influences when doing
research in Aboriginal communities
• Indigenous people live in very diverse
situations and settings – urban, remote and
isolated Aboriginal communities of Australia
• Strategies need to be context-specific and
therefore need consideration of the local
Key findings and challenges
• Working with multiple stakeholders and
their different agendas (including
• Navigating the community politics
• Keeping the community involved
• Working with funders and other
personnel to understand the issues and to
agree to context relevant/appropriate
measures of success
Key research challenges
• Keeping the project focused; staying on
• managing competing expectations;
• once people in the community raise
issues they want something done;
• managing different role/relationship
expectations (what do you with some of
the stories people share).
These partnership processes can also be
ambiguous, arduous and time consuming
to get it right when working with
Aboriginal communities – a fact that
many funding bodies, grant institutions
and ethic committees often fail to grasp.
• What do we do with the hard stuffthe moral/ethical dilemmas;
• Working out when to take up
advocacy work
Where to from here?
So the challenge and opportunities for all
of us is to determine how can we work
together in ways that are empowering –
that support both cultural continuity,
connection and strengthen the capacity
and capability of individuals and
Roz Walker: [email protected]
Dawn Bessarab: [email protected]
Chrissie Easton: [email protected]

Transformative research and knowledge translation to