Photovoice Evaluated: An Appropriate Visual Methodology for Aboriginal Water Resource Research


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Methodologies in human geography are rapidly evolving to include participatory approaches that incorporate other voices and knowledges. Central to these participatory methodologies is the co-evolution of research objectives, the co-production of knowledge, joint learning, and capacity building of all those involved. Visual methodologies that use the media of photography are gaining recognition as powerful participatory methods. In this paper, we evaluate whether photovoice is a culturally appropriate and engaging visual methodology, and consider how it can be improved to better facilitate research between non-Aboriginal researchers and Aboriginal Australians involved in water resource management. We draw from two photovoice projects conducted in partnership with two separate Aboriginal groups in northern Australia. Photovoice methodology in this context was found to be both culturally appropriate and engaging. It facilitated genuine participatory research, empowered participants, and was easily adapted to the field situation. The methodology proved to be a powerful tool that revealed in-depth information including Aboriginal values, knowledge, concerns, and aspirations for water resource management that may not have been captured through other participatory approaches. Photovoice methodology could be enhanced with a more defined role for the researcher as knowledge broker and as translator and communicator of research outcomes (as deemed appropriate by research participants) to policy makers.