Aboriginal participatory action research: an Indigenous research methodology strengthening decolonisation and social and emotional wellbeing

Discussion paper and literature review
Data sovereignty Cultural awareness Indigenous knowledge First Peoples mental health Research methodology Mental health Australia

The Lowitja Institute have created this discussion paper that articulates how and why Indigenous knowledge and research methodologies need to be urgently recognised as critical components of transformative research in order to improve social and emotional wellbeing (SEWB) for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people.

Key Findings/Recommendations:

  • There are multiple and interrelated social, cultural, historical, and political determinants of Indigenous mental health and wellbeing. The determinants impact individuals differently at different transition points across the life course. They include risk factors associated with marginalization, exclusion, forced removal from family and Country, assimilation, racism and discrimination. 
  • First Nations people have unique cultural protective factors such as active engagement in cultural practices related to Country and community self-determination associated with a sense of connection to Country and kin for individual and collective identity. These factors are a source of strength and resilience for Indigenous communities. Programs and services that strengthen Indigenous self-determination and governance, support traditional cultural practices, and enhance these protective factors are crucial to Indigenous SEWB.
  • Globally, the rise of Indigenous research methods and methodologies in recent years has shifted research beyond an acknowledgement of, or inclusion of Indigenous ways of knowing, towards a self-determining research praxis. Indigenous research methodologies are founded on cross-disciplinary research conducted by Indigenous scholars in challenging the ways in which colonisation was legitimised and sustained by colonial research practices and epistemologies.

In this research, bringing the stories together in community reports to be shared back to both initial participants and broader communities enabled further knowledge exchange and conversations, ongoing analyses and more comprehensive understandings to promote greater advocacy for governmental and wider community accountability to address Indigenous identified needs and priorities.

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