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Working in and with Indigenous communities


What the Australian literature has to say

The selected references included below are either available on the Web, or from the Australian Institute of Family Studies library via the Inter Library Loan System. This overview was compiled in November 2003.

Research and methodologies

Dunne, E
Consultation, rapport, and collaboration: essential preliminary stages in research with urban Aboriginal groups.
Australian Journal of Primary Health - Interchange v.6 no.1 2000: 6-14

Conducting quality research with any group involves rigorous attention to ethical guidelines. This area becomes more complicated when undertaking research in Indigenous Australian communities, given Australia's colonial history and power relations. The preliminary stages are important elements of the research process. Researchers need to engage in extensive community consultation, negotiation and collaboration to produce research beneficial to the Aboriginal community. Essential components of these areas are issues surrounding the development of rapport, informed consent, and ownership of data. This paper explores these areas drawing on the experience of a postgraduate research student to illustrate their importance. A research project focusing on mental health issues amongst Aboriginal people resident in Adelaide provides the framework for discussion of the issues. (Journal abstract)

Fielder, J; Roberts, J; Abdullah, J
Research with Indigenous communities.
In: Dudgeon, P., Garvey, D. and Pickett, H. eds. Working with Indigenous Australians: a handbook for psychologists. Perth, WA: Gunada Press, Curtin Indigenous Research Centre, Curtin University of Technology, 2000, p349-356

Arguing that it is essential to examine and reframe underlying philosophical assumptions which underpin research about Indigenous people, this paper describes: constructive research partnerships; history of previous research practices; the role of the psychologist in conducting research; step by step guidelines to working with the Aboriginal community in culturally appropriate ways; and community based and participatory approaches to research.

Franks, C; Brown, A; Brands, J; White, E; Ragg, L; Duffy, M; Walton, S; Dunbar, T
Research partnerships: yarning about research with Indigenous peoples.
Casuarina, NT: Cooperative Research Centre for Aboriginal and Tropical Health, 2001, 44p, figures, and Online (516 KB)

The Cooperative Research Centre for Aboriginal and Tropical Health (CRCATH) places a great deal of importance on the need for scientists to reassess traditional health and medical research practices. In order to achieve research practices that are more health outcomes oriented, and in the process to strongly encourage research processes that allow for real contribution and control by Indigenous Australians, CRCATH has funded a three year research project to proactively research and test management models and systems. This publication reports on a workshop sponsored by CRCATH with the emphasis on communication throughout the process. The report aims to make clear the links and connections between people and the interactions through which ideas emerge, evolve and are tested.

Hughes, I
Ganma: Indigenous knowledge for reconciliation and community action.
Sydney, NSW: Faculty of Health Sciences, Cumberland Campus, University of Sydney - Action research E-reports - no.14, 2000, paper presented to the Participatory Action Research World Congress, Ballarat, September 2000, Online only

In this paper the author reflects on a new model for doing action research in cross cultural situations, suggesting that it can assist deep reconciliation as well as the growth of new forms of knowledge drawing on ancient and modern traditions. From 1993 to 1995, as a member of an Aboriginal Health Action Group, he worked on a successful community action research project to establish a new Aboriginal Health Service. A form of Indigenous knowledge called Ganma in Arnhem Land and Yerin in the Gurringgai language, informed the philosophy of the action group. Here he presents a reflection on the dialectical relationship between social science knowledge and Indigenous knowledge, using the Ganma metaphor.

Humphery, K
Dirty questions: Indigenous health and 'Western research'.
Australian and New Zealand Journal of Public Health v.25 no.3 Jun 2001: 197-202

This paper explores both Indigenous and non-indigenous critiques of 'Western' research frameworks in an Aboriginal health context. It also discusses the 'reform' of Aboriginal health research practices since the 1980s, particularly in relation to the development of ethical guidelines. The text is based on both archival research and a critical review of secondary literature. It is argued that efforts to reform the practices of mainstream Indigenous health research since the 1980s have oscillated between taking concrete steps towards actually changing research practice and placing too great a reliance on written guidelines and positive rhetoric. In offering this analysis, the paper argues for a more challenging conception of reforming mainstream research, involving an emphasis on shifts in institutional arrangements as well as local research practices. (Journal abstract, edited)

Hunter, E
A brief historical background to health research in Indigenous communities.
Aboriginal and Islander Health Worker Journal v.25 no.1 Jan - Feb 2001: 6-8

Research has had a bad reputation in Indigenous communities. The author provides reasons why this is so, and then provides a brief outline of how Indigenous health research has changed over the last thirty years. He also suggests future directions for the research agenda.

Ivanitz, M
Culture, ethics and participatory methodology in cross-cultural research.
Australian Aboriginal Studies no.2 1999: 46-58

The purpose of this paper is to identify methodological issues and approaches that are relevant to the use of research methods that are sound from both Aboriginal and academic perspectives. The practical ambivalence of doing fieldwork with human beings who have their own ideas of how fieldwork should progress and about how research results should be used is taken into account. Issues discussed include: culture as a foundation; ethics and methodology; action research approach; participatory research methods; the collective, the individual and participation; and where the control rests.

Smith, L T
Decolonizing methodologies: research and indigenous peoples.
Dunedin, NZ: University of Otago Press, and Zed Books, 1999, 208p

Analysing the historical and philosophical base of Western research, the author calls for the decolonisation of research methods. She speaks of the term 'research' as inextricably linked to European imperialism and colonialism that has negative associations when used in indigenous contexts. She investigates how and why indigenous perspectives on research have developed. She argues that although indigenous culture, languages and stories may be spaces of marginalisation, they can also be spaces of resistance and hope. She then discusses several New Zealand based programs run by indigenous researchers.

Tsey, K
Making research more relevant to the needs and aspirations of Indigenous Australians: the importance of reseach capacity development.
Aboriginal and Islander Health Worker Journal v.25 no.1 Jan - Feb 2001: 19-24

A brief outline is presented of the Cooperative Research Centre for Aboriginal and Tropical Health (CRCATH), and its cooperative research and development program areas are listed. As Program Leader of one of these program areas, the Indigenous Education and Health Program, the author undertook preliminary consultations with stakeholders in order to mobilise support for the cooperative research concept as well as to canvass research and development ideas for the Program. This article describes the main outcomes of that consultative process, and highlights, among other things, the need for researchers, service providers, and community sectors to adopt a longer-term cooperative approach involving the enhancement of Indigenous research capacity if research were to become more relevant to the needs of Indigenous Australians.

University of Melbourne. VicHealth Koori Health Research and Community Development Unit
We don't like research ... but in Koori hands it could make a difference.
Parkville, Vic: VicHealth Koori Health Research and Community Development Unit, Centre for the Study of Health and Society, University of Melbourne, 2000, 32p, illus.

This publication is a report of the first community workshop conducted in cooperation with the Victorian Aboriginal Community Controlled Health Organisation, the Department of Rural Health (University of Melbourne, Shepparton) and the Rumbalara Aboriginal Cooperative in Shepparton in 1999. The goal of the workshop was to examine: the Koori community's concerns about research; the barriers to community control in health research; what would facilitate community control in health research; and strategies that would strengthen community participation in and control of health research.

Walker, P
Colonising research: academia's structural violence towards Indigenous peoples.
Social Alternatives v.22 no.3 Third Quarter 2003: 37-40

Indigenous people are often subject to structurally violent research processes. In this article the author explores some of the structural violence embedded in Western research involving Indigenous peoples such as the hegemony of Eurocentric frameworks, racism within academia and the silencing of sacred aspects of Indigenous experience.

Research guidelines and protocols

Henderson, R; Simmons, D S; Bourke, L; Muir, J
Development of guidelines for non-Indigenous people undertaking research among the Indigenous population of north-east Victoria.
Medical Journal of Australia v.176 no.10 May 2002: 482-485, tables

The Department of Rural Health at the University of Melbourne has developed a framework for conducting research in partnership with Indigenous communities. This article provides an overview of the framework which addresses past inappropriate research practices, incorporates cultural understandings, and outlines culturally appropriate protocols. The four parts of the framework include: a committee to initiate, direct and oversee all research projects; a Koorie Team to guide research; a set of research guidelines; and a policy for the department. The framework has been used to develop strong relations with Koorie communities and conduct various health projects. (Journal abstract, edited)

Hurley, A
Respect, acknowledge, listen: practical protocols for working with the Indigenous community of Western Sydney.
Liverpool, NSW: Community Cultural Development New South Wales, 2003, 21p, illus.,

Community Cultural Development New South Wales (CCDNSW) is the peak body for advocacy, networking, facilitation and training in community cultural development and community arts in New South Wales. These protocols have been researched, consulted and collaborated with the Indigenous community of Western Sydney. They are a guide to assist everyone with ways in which they can work, communicate and collaborate with the Indigenous community. The following sections are included: Get to know your Indigenous community; Consult; Get permission; Communicate (includes sections on language and Koori time); Ethics and morals; and Correct procedures. Indigenous organisations and Western Sydney contacts are listed, and references provided to other protocol resource documents.

National Health and Medical Research Council (Australia)
Values and ethics: guidelines for ethical conduct in Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander health research.
Canberra, ACT: National Health and Medical Research Council, 2003, 25p, Online (PDF 233 KB)

In accordance with guidance from Aboriginal people, these guidelines for ethical conduct in Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander health research have been written around a framework of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander values and principles. The six values that lie at the heart of the guidelines are: spirit and integrity; reciprocity; respect; equality; responsibility; and survival and protection. This document presents the guidelines, describes their development, and also makes suggestions for application of the guidelines, including the research process, community engagement and participation, and the role of Human Research Ethics Committees.

Queensland. Department of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Policy
Protocols for consultation and negotiation with Aboriginal people.
Brisbane, Qld: Department of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Policy and Development, rev. ed. 1999, Online only (Archived copy)

This booklet has been developed on the basis of advice from an Aboriginal Working Party. It is a guide to Queensland Government officers who may need to consult with Queensland Aboriginal individuals, groups and/ or communities. There are sections on: Aboriginal history; significant issues; Aboriginality; protocols re consultation and negotiation, with subsections on community visits and formal meetings; providing feedback; evaluation; further information; cultural communication cues.

Rawsthorne, M
Working better with Indigenous people, communities and issues.
SPRC Newsletter no.84 May 2003: 6, and Online

The Social Policy Research Centre is currently adopting an action plan that will seek to ensure Indigenous issues are dealt with appropriately at both a systemic or structural level and an individual project level. Brief details are provided here about the framework that will be adopted for the action plan, which has four key elements: partnerships; capacity building; ethics; and community development benefit.

Todd, A L; Frommer, M S; Bailey, S; Daniels, J L
Collecting and using Aboriginal health information in New South Wales.
Australian and New Zealand Journal of Public Health v.24 no.4 Aug 2000: 378-381

This article describes the development of the NSW Aboriginal Health Information Guidelines. The purpose of the guidelines is to promote the ethical management of Aboriginal health information, with appropriate consideration for cultural factors. The guidelines were developed collaboratively by the NSW Aboriginal Health Partnership. A lengthy and comprehensive consultation process enabled a wide range of interested groups to have input into the guidelines. The guidelines cover the collection, ownership, storage, security, release, usage, interpretation and reporting of information, as well as issues of privacy and confidentiality. The guidelines formed the basis of a formal Memorandum of Understanding, signed by the NSW Minister for Health, NSW Department of Health and the Aboriginal Health and Medical Research Council in August 1998. (Journal abstract, edited)

Putting guidelines and protocols into practice

Backhouse, L
Gate keeping of research in Aboriginal communities.
Aboriginal and Islander Health Worker Journal v.23 no.5 Sept - Oct 1999: 20-25

This paper looks at the role of gate keepers of the research in Aboriginal communities. Gate keeping occurs through the contributions made and the rights of the parties involved in the research, that is, the community, the funding body and the researcher. The paper also proposes a way for all parties to benefit from interaction with each other until such time as Aboriginal communities are conducting their own research in their own community by trained members of their community. (Journal abstract)

Crawford, F; Dudgeon, P; Garvey, D; Pickett, H
Interacting with Aboriginal communities.
In: Dudgeon, P., Garvey, D. and Pickett, H. eds. Working with Indigenous Australians: a handbook for psychologists. Perth, WA: Gunada Press, Curtin Indigenous Research Centre, Curtin University of Technology, 2000, p185-201

This paper on interacting with Aboriginal communities has been largely drawn from 'Jalinardi Ways: Whitefellas Working in Aboriginal Communities' (Crawford, 1989). With reference mainly to Aboriginal communities in rural/ remote areas, the following issues are discussed. Key customs and concepts, on naming, death and dying and time; basic do's and don't's in relation to communication, questions, thanks, knowing Aboriginal communities, meetings and decision making, promises, dress code and presentation, and using local resources; and maintaining yourself when interacting with Aboriginal communities, including self care, working and living in the community, working in an indigenous controlled service and in a mainstream service, and personal safety issues. Personal insights are presented by Maureen Kelly and Natalie Contos.

Davidson, G
The importance of interpersonal communication skills in intercultural contacts.
In: Dudgeon, P., Garvey, D. and Pickett, H. eds. Working with Indigenous Australians: a handbook for psychologists. Perth, WA: Gunada Press, Curtin Indigenous Research Centre, Curtin University of Technology, 2000, p181-183

The results are briefly outlined in this paper of a study looking at whether the interpersonal dimensions of communication apprehension, receiver apprehension and communication flexibility were likely to have any bearing on non Indigenous people's contact and communication with, and concern for, Aboriginal people. Ways practitioners can communicate emotionally with others are discussed.

Dousset, L
Naming and personal names of Ngaatjatjarra-speaking people, Western Desert: some questions related to research.
Australian Aboriginal Studies no.2 1997: 50-54, figures

Based on the author's own experience in the Western Desert, the question of names and naming and the associated problems for the researcher are considered in this paper which aims to present the different types of personal names used by Ngaatjatjarra-speaking people and to propose a table summarising their relationship within the sphere of confidentiality and importance. Topics outlined include: bush names; names related to a place or parent; name given at birth; other Aboriginal names; Aboriginal nicknames; European names; and substitutes and transformations in the case of death.

Ford, M; Fasoli, L
Indigenous early childhood educators' narratives: some methodological considerations.
Australian Journal of Early Childhood v.26 no.3 Sept 2001: 12-17

This article discusses some methodological issues in a cross-cultural, participative research project, using a narrative approach. The research focus was to engage Aboriginal early childhood educators in conversations about what they considered to be important practices for working effectively with young Aboriginal children with a view to broadcasting the results to wider Indigenous and non-Indigenous audiences. The research design included elements intended to disrupt the power disparity characteristic of past inter-cultural research, without claiming political or cultural neutrality. It outlines structures the authors put in place throughout the research process for promoting Aboriginal control over the knowledge generated by the research. Although as non-Indigenous researchers the authors set out to position themselves on the periphery of the research process, they were embedded in the process at every level. This paper describes that process. (Journal abstract, edited)

Queensland. Department of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Policy
Mina Mir Lo Ailan Mun: proper communication with Torres Strait Islander peoples.
Brisbane, Qld: Department of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Policy and Development, 1999 (?), Online only (Archived copy)

This is a guide for government officers and others working within the Torres Strait region. The first section deals with traditional Islander society and contact history. Information is provided on the essential historical, cultural, social, economic, religious and political background necessary to understanding the nature of contemporary Islander and non-Islander interaction. The second section offers practical guidance to improving communication between Islanders and non-Islanders.

Moorcroft, H, comp; Garwood, A, comp.
Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander thesaurus.
Canberra, ACT: National Library of Australia, 1997, 79p

This thesaurus is not just for Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander people but for anyone researching the history and issues of Australia. Specifically, it aims to be a guide for library staff when cataloguing so that culturally appropriate terms are used which enable researchers of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander issues greater access to information. It explains words that are in use by many Aborigines and a few language words that are used in particular areas of Australia. It also explains commonplace words which have different meanings from the standard English definitions.

Salamone, C; Cadd, M
Aboriginal resource and cultural guide: resource for staff working with Aboriginal children and their families.
Preston, Vic: Victorian Aboriginal Child Care Agency Co-op Ltd, 2001(?), 19p

This booklet has been written to assist workers within the child and family welfare field who on a regular basis communicate or come into contact with Aboriginal people. It is offered as a guide to promote understanding of key aspects of Aboriginal history and life style, and to facilitate rigorous examination of practice and policies to ensure that interactions with Aboriginal people at all times reflect respect and show a meaningful appreciation of their culture.

Scott, T
Implementing consumer feedback into a continuous quality improvement framework at Alice Springs Hospital.
Melbourne, Vic: National Resource Centre for Consumer Participation in Health, La Trobe University, 2001, 18p, Online (681 KB)
http://www.participateinhealth.org.au/ClearingHouse/Docs/cappsal icesprings.doc

This document reports on a joint Consumer and Provider Partnerships (CAPPS) in Health project between Alice Springs Hospital, and two local Aboriginal organisations, Tangentyere Council and Arrernte Council. It aimed to identify the most culturally appropriate methods of receiving Aboriginal consumer feedback about the services at Alice Springs Hospital to improve Aboriginal health outcomes and health services. Aboriginal consumers and consumer groups, and staff from Alice Springs Hospital and Remote Health were continually involved in the design, implementation and evaluation of this project from start to finish during the consultation and communication process. Information is provided about the project and its context, activities, progress, achievements, and what remains to be done to accomplish all the aims of the project.

Warrki Jarrinjaku ACRS Project Team
Aboriginal child rearing and related research: a review of the literature - Warrki jarrinjaku jintangkamanu purananjaku 'Working together everyone and listening'.
Canberra: Department of Family and Community Services, 2002, 168p, figures, maps

Aboriginal communities have endured massive changes in recent years and there is a deep concern by elders living in remote areas of Australia about the health and well being of their children. They see colonisation as having induced many self destructive behaviours, such as petrol sniffing, violence and alcohol misuse, yet the imposition of mainstream culture has failed to deliver acceptable standards of health. This literature review investigates the available resources on Aboriginal child rearing methods as one means of facilitating a both ways approach to service design and delivery that would place equal value and respect on quality practices from Aboriginal and non Aboriginal culture. The review pays particular attention to Aboriginal culture and languages. Its purpose is to inform planning for early childhood and family policy, and to provide resources on child rearing for Aboriginal women working on the Warrki Jarrinjaku ACRS (Aboriginal Child Rearing Strategy).

Weeramanthri, T
Knowledge, language and mortality: communicating health information in Aboriginal communities in the Northern Territory.
Australian Journal of Primary Health - Interchange v.2 no.2 May 1996: 3-11

The author considers the difficulties that non-Aboriginal health professionals experience in discussing health information with Aboriginal people in the Northern Territory. Communication of information is seen as critical to the process of primary health care but beset by problems of language, different ways of 'knowing' and different values. Specific examples of communication difficulties are given from a five year research project that focused on the social and medical issues behind a series of adult Aboriginal deaths. The purpose of providing information at a community level is two-fold: first, to demystify an issue, process or structure and second, to get people talking. It is useful in communicative practice to view health information as having two equally important components: statistics and stories. All statistics are built up from individual stories, and effective information programs incorporate the story approach. Suggestions are made as to how primary health care practitioners can improve their communication practices. Before practitioners ask 'What do people need?' or 'What are their problems and how can they be addressed?', they need to ask first 'What do people know?' and second 'What do people value?' (Journal abstract)

Williams, S
The Indigenous Australian health worker: can research enhance their development as health and community development professionals?
Aboriginal and Islander Health Worker Journal v.25 no.1 Jan - Feb 2001: 9-15

This article examines the role and responsibilities of Indigenous health workers, with a focus on concerns regarding research, in the context of Indigenous health worker education, training, development and praxis. The author explains that Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people have been consistently sceptical about research because of predominantly negative experiences with research, and a deficiency of meaningful research results and outcomes. The article examines these issues as a prelude to presenting an argument for an alternative research paradigm that is essentially practice based and tangible, as opposed to subjective and impositional.

Governance and practice considerations

Bedford, D
The ATSIC rights agenda.
Journal of Indigenous Policy no.1 2002: 17-23

Noting that Australian Indigenous people have been seeking recognition of their rights for many generations, the author discusses the ATSIC Rights Framework, which is based on the principle of self determination. He argues that this will only be achieved when there is no outside government interference in the internal affairs of Indigenous peoples, and that it extends to self governance. He explains citizenship rights and Indigenous rights and examines whether these are being effectively implemented. He also explains the difference between formal equality and substantive equality and the special measures that flow from the latter.

Beetson, J
Consultation and negotiation with Indigenous peoples.
Journal of Indigenous Policy no.1 2002: 87-91

What Indigenous communities want most, the author says, is not governance but advice and support on maintaining and monitoring projects. Even partnerships, he says, often involve an unequal balance. He advocates working with love, compassion and respect to achieve effective working relationships, and he wants to see policy that reflects trust, responsibility and accountability.

Dodson, M; Smith, D E
Governance for sustainable development: strategic issues and principles for Indigenous communities.
Canberra, ACT: Centre for Aboriginal Economic Policy Research, Australian National University, 2003, 25p, table (CAEPR discussion paper no.250/2003) and Online
http://online.anu.edu .au/caepr/discussion.php

This Discussion Paper examines the concepts of 'governance', 'good governance' and 'sustainable development' in the context of Australian Indigenous communities and regions. It explores the hypothesis that there is vital link between governance and sustainable development. The first half of the paper defines the key concepts and reviews the existing barriers facing Indigenous communities and their organisations in securing sustainable socioeconomic development. It identifies the key ingredients of successful development and then those over which Indigenous Australians actually have some local control. On the premise that it is best to make a start in areas where local control can be exercised, building 'good governance' is identified as the key ingredient the foundation stone for building sustainable development in communities and regions. The second half of the paper then proposes a set of key ingredients and core principles which Indigenous communities might use to build more effective governance. (Journal abstract, edited)

Martin, D F
Is welfare dependency 'welfare poison'? An assessment of Noel Pearson's proposals for Aboriginal welfare reform.
Canberra, ACT: Centre for Aboriginal Economic Policy Research, Australian National University, 2001, 25p (CAEPR discussion paper no.213/2001) and Online (222 KB)
http://online.anu.edu .au/caepr/discussion.php

Aboriginal lawyer, activist and social commentator Noel Pearson has recently argued that the current mode of delivery of welfare services to Aboriginal people is deeply antithetical to their interests and wellbeing. This article examines Pearson's arguments and the impetus for social change. Central to his scheme for policy change and improved welfare outcomes are two core propositions. The first is that the 'passive welfare' policies instituted in Aboriginal communities over the past three decades, with no demands for reciprocity and responsibility on the part of welfare recipients, have promoted detrimental relations of passivity and dependence which are now deeply embedded within Aboriginal societies. Pearson's second key proposition is that addressing the dysfunctional consequences of the welfare system for Aboriginal people will require structural change. In particular, new institutions for Aboriginal governance, both formal and informal, will need to be developed. It is through reform of the existing institutional arrangements between government and Aboriginal communities, and through these formal and informal Aboriginal institutions, Pearson argues, that the principles of reciprocity and individual responsibility necessary to leach the 'poison' from welfare resources can be instituted and implemented. (Author)

Martin, D F
Rethinking the design of Indigenous organisations: the need for strategic engagement.
Canberra, ACT: Centre for Aboriginal Economic Policy Research, Australian National University, 2003, 16p (CAEPR discussion paper no.248/2003) and Online
http://online.anu.edu .au/caepr/discussion.php

This paper argues that a fundamental issue confronting Australian Indigenous groups and communities is how to develop the capacity to engage strategically with the general Australian society, in particular with its political and economic dimensions. 'Strategic engagement' refers to the processes through which people are able to interact with institutions of the dominant Australian society that provides them with real choices as to where to go, and how to get there. It refers to a process, not an outcome. This capacity for strategic engagement is dependent upon many factors, but effective governance mechanisms in particular are critical. Governance can be seen as the formal and informal structures and processes through which a group, community or society conducts and regulates both its internal affairs and its relations with others. This paper focuses on principles for effective governance within Indigenous organisations, and argues that nowhere in Australia do Indigenous people live in self defining and self reproducing worlds of meaning and practices; rather they inhabit complex and contested intercultural worlds. It is argued that it is no longer defensible to resort to the mantra of 'cultural appropriateness', nor solely to traditions and customary practices in determining principles by which effective Indigenous institutions should be established and should operate. Rather, the challenge is to develop distinctively Indigenous institutions which nonetheless facilitate effective engagement rather than limiting it. This paper suggests a set of principles for this task. (Journal abstract, edited)

Sanders, W G; Arthur, W S
Autonomy rights in Torres Strait: from whom, for whom, for or over what?
Canberra, ACT: Centre for Aboriginal Economic Policy Research, Australian National University, 2001, 19p, tables, figures (CAEPR discussion paper no.215/2001) and Online (279 KB)
http://online.anu.edu .au/caepr/discussion.php

In recent years, Torres Strait Islanders have made a number of calls for greater governmental autonomy within the Australian federal system. This paper examines a number of these calls and government responses to them. It observes that progress towards greater autonomy has been slow and difficult and relates this to unresolved issues pertaining to three underlying analytic questions: from whom, for whom and for or over what is autonomy being sought? The paper argues that there have been, and still are, difficult unresolved issues relating to all three questions which Torres Strait Islanders need to address if autonomy is to progress. It also argues that the Australian federal system can accommodate greater autonomy in Torres Strait, though it will require some real innovation in Australian federal governance. (Author abstract)

Shibasaki, S; Valery, P; Audera, C; Gibson, O
A guide to informing a community within the Torres Straits.
Aboriginal and Islander Health Worker Journal v.24 no.4 Jul - Aug 2000: 15-16, figures, maps

Arguing that adequate community consultation and public relations are essential requirements for conducting research in any community, this article describes the steps taken to inform a Torres Strait Islander community regarding the commencement of an asthma prevalence study of children aged 0 - 17 years. The involvement of local Torres Strait Islander health workers was found to be crucial to the success of the study.

Westbury, N; Sanders, W
Governance and service delivery for remote Aboriginal communities in the Northern Territory: challenges and opportunities.
Canberra, ACT: Centre for Aboriginal Economic Policy Research, Australian National University, 2000, 21p, tables, figures (CAEPR working paper no.6), Online only (165 KB)
http://online.anu.edu.au /caepr/working.php

This report attempts to identify a way forward on some of the challenging self-governance and service delivery issues facing governments and Aboriginal peoples, by identifying strategic opportunities for change and the development of more collaborative relationships. The authors provide some background on Aboriginal affairs reform dating from the 1970s and the granting of Northern Territory self-government in 1978, and describe the emergence of some rather adversarial relationships in governance and service delivery for remote Northern Territory Aboriginal communities during the 1980s and 1990s. The report also examines land rights and local government reform proposals and more collaborative service delivery arrangements already being developed in housing and health. The need for the further development of regional support organisations to assist and service local Aboriginal communities is identified as a critical factor, while acknowledging that in discrete remote communities many services must still be addressed at the individual community level. The authors argue strongly for an incremental, but planned, approach to governance and service delivery reform, rather than grand institutional redesign. Potential implications and ways forward for Central Australia are considered and related recommendations are set out at the end of the report.

Wilson, J
Remote area Aboriginal health services managers: key practice challenges.
Australian Journal of Rural Health v.9 no.3 Jun 2001: 138-140

The following reflections on the author's management practice are based on the text of an address given by the author at the 1999 International Conference of the Royal Australasian College of Medical Administrators in Sydney. These reflections arise out of the author's experience for the past 5 years as manager of Nganampa Health Council, an Aboriginal community controlled health organisation located in the remote northwest of South Australia. Nganampa Health Council is a large regional service with a national reputation for clinical and administrative excellence. It has several leading-edge health programs, which provide an exemplar for other remote health services across Australia. The author discusses three generic key management issues that remote health services managers typically encounter and argues that services are likely to be most effective when resources are applied in a focused and strategic manner and when management practices that are pragmatic and culturally appropriate are adopted. (Journal abstract)

Woods, W; Wanatjura, E; Colin, T; Mick, J; Lynch, A; Ward, N
Atunypa wiru malparara malparara: the strength of working together.
In: Weeks, W. and Quinn, M. eds. Issues facing Australian families: human services respond. Frenchs Forest, NSW: Pearson Education Australia, 3rd ed., 2000, p91-100

The NPY Women's Council, its background and the way it works are described in this chapter which incorporates explanations from NPY Women's Council members on what human services projects, services and action research have been undertaken. The focus is on using the Malparara way. Malparara means, in the context of the projects, two workers, working together on a project, one of whom is a non-Anangu woman employed for her specific professional skills, and other a senior Anangu woman (Anangu workers are usually senior women with local authority and respect, speaking local languages but not confident in speaking English in public).

Evidence of change?

Adams, M
Researching Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander male health.
Aboriginal and Islander Health Worker Journal v.26 no.5 Sept - Oct 2002: 19-21

An overview is provided of the author's research project, which examined how Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander men cared for their health. The methodology used was an ethnographic approach which allowed the author to observe and take a participatory role with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander men and women who provided a cultural, generational and gender perspective of Aboriginal history and its impact on men's health and well-being. The research was conducted in partnership with the Aboriginal and Islander Community Health Service (AICHS) in Woolloongabba. The research drew on participants' knowledge, stories and experiences. It engaged participants as facilitators and decision-makers to ensure that the research project was conducted in a culturally appropriate manner and that it contained a world view of Indigenous health. (Journal abstract, edited)

Altman, J
Can quality independent research in Indigenous affairs be influential? Personal reflections on the Reeves Land Rights Inquiry and its aftermath.
Australian Aboriginal Studies no.2 2001: 12-17

This article raises, but far from definitively answers, a fundamental question that academic anthropologists often ask: how can they ensure that their research has beneficial policy influence? This general issue is examined with reference to one particular example, the Reeves Land Rights Inquiry of 1997-98 and subsequent events, including a conference convened in 1999 by concerned social scientists, many of whom were anthropologists, that was highly critical of the Reeves Review's scholarship; and a Parliamentary Inquiry into the contentious review that after prolonged deliberation was dismissive of its recommendations. (Journal abstract, edited)

Boughton, B
Popular education, capacity-building and action research: increasing Aboriginal community control of education and health research.
Casuarina, NT: Cooperative Research Centre for Aboriginal and Tropical Health, 2001, 29p (Occasional paper no.005 2001)

Why have decades of academic research into the conditions of Aboriginal life not yet substantially reduced the socio-economic and health inequality between Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal people? amp;Put simply, research tends to consolidate the power of researchers and their institutions, rather than building the power of the communities and their organisations who are being researched, the author suggests. If this is so, he asks, how might the Cooperative Research Centre for Aboriginal and Tropical Health (CRCATH) break this pattern? The author's objective in this occasional paper is to document and reflect upon the process which a small research team in Central Australia developed in order to break with the historical pattern of unequal exchange between research institutions and the Aboriginal communities they study. The research methodology combined conventional social research with techniques borrowed from the fields of community organising and popular education. After two years, clear benefits had begun to emerge in terms of increased community capacity to direct and control the research. This paper aims to ensure that the lessons learned from this experience inform future attempts within and beyond the CRCATH to institutionalise greater Aboriginal community control over education and health research.

Rowse, T
Indigenous futures: choice and development for Aboriginal and Islander Australia.
Sydney NSW: University of New South Wales Press, 2002, 270p

The author asserts that recent debates over Australia's Indigenous policies have usually been grounded in personal experience rather then social research. He analyses research from the Centre for Aboriginal Economic Policy Research over the last ten years to argue that Indigenous choice is a fundamental and widely shared political value. He explains that government policy allows Indigenous Australians three tiers of choice: as individuals, as a family group and as the Indigenous Sector; and he reflects on the importance and effectiveness of the Indigenous Sector in enhancing the capacity to make choices. He emphasises the need for social science research to inform a debate on the future of Indigenous people, but warns that social science is driven by the values of social scientists and we should therefore view such research with critical awareness.

Trudgen, R
Why warriors lie down and die: towards an understanding of why the Aboriginal people of Arnhem Land face the greatest crisis in health and education since European contact: djambatj mala.
Parap NT: Aboriginal Resource and Development Services, 2000, 269p, maps

The author explores the crises that face the people of Arnhem Land in the Northern Territory, including poor health, very high unemployment and short life expectancy. From his own experiences in the area from 1973 to the 1990s, he analyses the reasons for the state of crisis. He outlines the history of the people of this area from ancient times through to the recent history of assimilation, and then self determination and self management. He considers the best ways in which the people of Arnhem Land can successfully be in control of their communities again, arguing that a solution can be found but only if the situation is analysed and understood from the side of the people themselves. Topics covered in chapters include: The essence of human interaction - communication; What language do you dream in? Understanding the people's cultural knowledge base; Why cross-cultural / cross-language education is failing; Health, healing and traditional authority; Welfare and dependency and their effect on the people; The stress of living between two cultures; The traditional learning process; Rewriting the future.

Williams, A
Community attitudes to researchers.
Aboriginal and Islander Health Worker Journal v.25 no.1 Jan - Feb 2001: 25-26

As a community health nurse, the author lived for long periods in central Australian Aboriginal communities. He briefly describes aspects of his job, and explains why most community health nurses in this environment had a cynical view of visiting researchers. He attempts to synthesise a single view from the many he heard and some of which he held himself at the time. He suggests that, whilst these views are the product of long periods of isolation in stressful conditions, they continue to be held by many today and that an awareness of them should inform and influence current community research activities.

Evaluation issues

Anderson, I; Brady, M
Performance indicators for Aboriginal health services.
Canberra, ACT: Centre for Aboriginal Economic Policy Research, Australian National University, 1995, 24p (CAEPR discussion paper no.81 1995)

Performance indicators, which are simply variables that help to measure change, have been highly contentious in the area of Aboriginal health. This discussion paper focuses on the introduction of performance indicators for Aboriginal health services by the former Department of Aboriginal Affairs and subsequent attempts by the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Commission (ATSIC) to implement their collection. This paper addresses some of the difficulties implicit in the way in which performance indicators have been linked to funding allocations, and the difficulties experienced by Aboriginal community controlled health services in providing the data requested. Often the data requested in the past have not been relevant either to monitoring performance, or to assessing health status. The paper examines conceptual problems associated with indicators, and makes overall policy recommendations. (Author abstract)

McCallum, S
Best practice versus intervention research: the Northern Territory experience.
In: Thompson, R. ed. Working in Indigenous perpetrator programs: proceedings of a forum. Darwin, NT: Ministerial Council for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Affairs, 2000, p197-206

The best practice process presumes that there is one best way to practice, regardless of culture, environment and policies. This paper draws on the experience of two men's violence programs delivered in the Northern Territory: a domestic violence perpetrator program and a sex offender program, in order to question the current practice of program selection through the means of best practice. The strategy of best practice selection is compared with an alternative model of program development: intervention research. Intervention research aims to apply rigorous method to the development of intervention programs, so that the resultant service is one which is valid for the client group it seeks to service and is reliable for the environment in which it is based.

McIntyre, J
An adapted version of a community of practice approach to evaluation owned by indigenous stakeholders.
Evaluation Journal of Australasia v.2 no.2 Dec 2002: 57-59

Values are at the heart of the definition of well-being and are at the heart of all evaluation initiatives. Unless the initial definitions of evaluation are owned by stakeholder groups (age, gender, ethnicity, culture, language etc.) and shared to develop a co-created sense of citizenship rights and responsibilities (McIntyre 2000; Romm 2001), then the process of evaluation may be compromised. This paper discusses work in progress where the author acts as a facilitator of indigenous facilitators who are in the process of developing an integrated model for governance that is defined and owned by an indigenous public housing association. (Journal abstract)