Respecting Culture: Research with Rural Aboriginal Community

  • Jennene Greenhill
  • Kerry Dix
Part of the Social Indicators Research Series book series (SINS, volume 34)


Cultural sensitivity: easy to say, difficult to do! This chapter explores the process of doing cross-cultural research in the context of working with Aboriginal people. It follows our journey in search of methods to collect meaningful data and reveals the successes and struggles encountered. We address the question: “How do we maximize cultural sensitivity as white women doing research with Aboriginal people?” We share our experience in finding ways to do culturally sensitive research. The many ways that participants tell their stories, how to achieve a degree of trust and rapport with the communities, the elders, the individuals, their families and the service providers is examined.

Many Aboriginal people have good reason to be sceptical about research and doubt whether it is really useful to their communities. Aboriginal communities are often the focus of research but are rarely the recipients of tangible benefits of this intense interest. Given the history of research being “done to” Aboriginal people the importance of building relationships, showing respect and a willingness to learn is foremost in our minds when we embark on research. Researchers need to be cognisant of the history of exploitation within communities and the associated ongoing cultural dyslexia that characterises our society. We argue that cultural dyslexia is a result of dissonance, institutional racism and positivist research and management approaches that are preoccupied with “evidence”, data quality and outcomes and too often lead to the objectification of participants.

The need for research to be grounded in participatory methodologies such as action research and community-based ethnography is well documented. A reflexive approach is essential because it promotes community inclusion and confronts the traditional exclusivity in academic culture of research expertise. By sharing experiences and fostering a collaborative culture through research, we can learn from communities and we can undertake more meaningful research.

Indigenous community Respecting culture Cultural sensitivity Trust and rapport Cultural dyslexia Participatory methodology Suicide prevention Young Aboroginal men 


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Copyright information

© Springer Science + Business Media B.V 2008

Authors and Affiliations

  • Jennene Greenhill
    • 1
  • Kerry Dix
    • 1
  1. 1.Rural Clinical SchoolFlinders UniversityRenmark

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