Using an Indigenist Framework for Decolonizing Health Promotion Research

  • Karen McPhail-BellEmail author
  • Alison Nelson
  • Ian Lacey
  • Bronwyn Fredericks
  • Chelsea Bond
  • Mark Brough
Living reference work entry


This chapter provides a critical reflection on an ethnographic approach led by a non-Indigenous researcher in partnership with an Indigenous community-controlled health organization, and a team of Indigenous and non-Indigenous supervisors, advisors, critical friends, and mentors. The chapter explores the way the three interrelated principles of Indigenist research informed the study, as a critical reflection of the methodology’s achievement of a decolonizing research agenda. The flow of Maiwah (the Brisbane River in Australia) provides a metaphor for the chapter’s diverse authorship. Maiwah’s tributaries, inlets, and banks represent author voices at different points while the one River flowing represents coming together to form a broader collective story of the research that still respects the authors’ individual positioning. Maiwah’s flow also signifies the dialogical approach of the research – “tricky ground” (Smith 2005) for non-Indigenous researchers seeking to privilege Indigenous voices while remaining accountable to their own White privilege, particularly given that at its most basic level, research requires the “extraction of ideas” from participants. Yet, the flow of Maiwah also shows us the possibilities of research, where in this case, researcher and participants together cocreated new knowledge in support of their agendas. This process enabled both research outcomes and increased research capacity and confidence in the host agency and researcher. On this account, decolonizing research is perhaps more about relationship and devolving control over the process than it is about particular methods, and the respectful negotiation of epistemological meanings and representation of particular knowledges that can result.


Indigenist research Decolonizing methodologies Health promotion Indigenous Australians Non-Indigenous Australians 



We acknowledge the support of the Institute for Urban Indigenous Health and Deadly Choices.


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Copyright information

© Springer Nature Singapore Pte Ltd. 2017

Authors and Affiliations

  • Karen McPhail-Bell
    • 1
    • 7
    Email author
  • Alison Nelson
    • 2
  • Ian Lacey
    • 3
  • Bronwyn Fredericks
    • 4
  • Chelsea Bond
    • 5
  • Mark Brough
    • 6
  1. 1.University Centre for Rural HealthUniversity of SydneyCamperdownAustralia
  2. 2.Allied Health and Workforce DevelopmentInstitute for Urban Indigenous HealthBrisbaneAustralia
  3. 3.Deadly ChoicesInstitute for Urban Indigenous HealthBrisbaneAustralia
  4. 4.Office of Indigenous EngagementCentral Queensland UniversityRockhamptonAustralia
  5. 5.Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Studies UnitThe University of QueenslandSt LuciaAustralia
  6. 6.School of Public Health and Social WorkQueensland University of TechnologyKelvin GroveAustralia
  7. 7.Poche Centre for Indigenous Health, Sydney Medical SchoolThe University of SydneyCamperdownAustralia

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