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Decolonising research: a shift toward reconciliation


Correspondence: Deborah Prior, Director of Learning and Development, Centre for Palliative Care Research and Education, Block 7 Level 7, Royal Brisbane and Women's Hospital, Herston Road, Herston Queensland, 4029, Australia. E-mail: <>


Although awareness of cultural differences that distinguish Indigenous peoples has increased worldwide following attention from international human rights bodies, Indigenous cultural values have had little influence in shaping research agendas or methods of inquiry. Self-determination and reconciliation policies have been part of the decolonisation agenda of governments for several decades; however, these have not, until recently, been considered of relevance to research. Indigenous peoples feel that they are the most studied population in Australia, to the point where even the word research arouses feelings of suspicion and defensive attitudes. Indigenous people are generally cynical about the benefits of research and cautious toward what many perceive to be the colonial mentality or ‘positional superiority’ ingrained in the psyche of western researchers. This article examines the characteristics and colonising effects of traditional research methods and describes an alternative, decolonising approach. Decolonising research methodology is congruent with Indigenous epistemology and is guided by the values and research agenda of Indigenous people. The Guidelines for ethical conduct in Aboriginal and Torres Strait islander health research, developed by the National Aboriginal and Islander Health Organisation (NAIHO) with the National Health & Medical Research Council (NHMRC) in 2003 are examined, as they exemplify a decolonising paradigm for researchers.