Culturally Safe Research with Vulnerable Populations (Māori)

  • Denise WilsonEmail author
Reference work entry


Vulnerable populations are often subjected to some form of social marginalization. This contributes to persistent inequities in their social and health outcomes, and differences in their access to and use of necessary services. Researchers’ decisions and the research processes they utilize can further increase their risk of vulnerability and marginalization. Historically, Māori (indigenous peoples of Aotearoa New Zealand) experiences with research often yielded little benefit for them, instead frequently reinforcing negative stereotypes and perpetuating deficit explanations and inaccuracies. Today, many Maori remain suspicious of researchers and their agendas and are reluctant to engage in research. Yet, quality evidence and generating accurate “stories” are crucial to inform optimal strategies to resolve persistent social and health inequities. Nonetheless, evidence founded on dominant cultural research paradigms and sociocultural realities and interpretations can worsen people’s vulnerability and marginalization within social and health research contexts. Creating culturally responsive and safe spaces and research contexts with Maori, and others vulnerable within research settings, are needed to minimize participants’ vulnerability and marginalization and counter unhelpful constructions about them. In this chapter, the importance of understanding the impact differing worldviews can have on researchers, research methodology, and research conduct with vulnerable populations will be discussed. Strategies will be presented aimed at minimizing the vulnerability of those participating in or targeted for research. A framework based on the concepts of partnership, participation, protection, and power is provided to assist researchers’ cultural responsiveness, getting the research story right, and importantly, to improve the utility of their research.


Indigenous research Cultural responsiveness Cultural safety Māori Māori-centered Kaupapa Māori research 


  1. Battiste M, editor. Reclaiming indigenous voice and vision. Vancouver: UBC Press; 2000.Google Scholar
  2. Bhopal R. Glossary of terms relating to ethnicity and race: for reflection and debate. J Epidemiol Community Health. 2004;58(6):441–5.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  3. Bishop R. Collaborative research stories: Whakawhanaungatanga. Palmerston North: Dunmore; 1996.Google Scholar
  4. Bishop R. Freeing ourselves from neo-colonial domination in research: a Maori approach to creating knowledge. Int J Qual Stud Educ. 1998;11(2):199–219.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  5. Chilisa B. Indigenous research methodologies. Thousand Oaks: SAGE; 2012.Google Scholar
  6. Cram F. Safety of subsequent children – Māori children and whānau: a review of selected literature for the families commission – Kōmihana ā Whānau research report 2/12. 2012. Retrieved from
  7. Cram F. Measuring Māori wellbeing: a commentary. MAI J. 2014;3(1):18–32.Google Scholar
  8. Cunningham C. A framework for addressing Maori knowledge in research, science and technology. Pac Health Dialog. 2000;7(1):62–9.Google Scholar
  9. Durie M. Identity, access and Maori advancement. In: The indigenous future: edited proceedings of the New Zealand educational administration society research conference. Auckland/New Zealand: Auckland Institute of Technology/New Zealand Educational Administration Society Research Conference; 1997. p. 1–15.Google Scholar
  10. Durie M. Whaiora: Maori health development. 2nd ed. Auckland: Oxford University Press; 1998.Google Scholar
  11. Durie M. Understanding health and illness: research at the interface between science and indigenous knowledge. Int J Epidemiol. 2004;33(5):1138–43.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  12. Eketone A. Tapuwae: a vehicle for community change. Community Dev J. 2006;41(4):467–80.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  13. Hudson M, Russell K. The treaty of Waitangi and research ethics in Aotearoa. J Bioeth Inq. 2009;6(1):61–8.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  14. Hudson M, Milne M, Reynolds P, Russell K, Smith B. Te ara tika guidelines for Maori research ethics: a framework for researchers and ethics committee members. Auckland: Health Research Council; 2010.Google Scholar
  15. Irwin K. Māori research methods and processes: an exploration. Sites. 1994;28:24–43.Google Scholar
  16. Jahnke HT, Taiapa J. Maori research. In: Davidson C, Tolich M, editors. Social science research in New Zealand: many paths to understanding. Auckland: Longman Pearson Education; 1999. p. 39–50.Google Scholar
  17. Liamputtong P. Research methods i health: foundations of evidence-based practice. South Melbourne: Oxford University Press. 2010.Google Scholar
  18. Makowharemahihi C, Lawton BA, Cram F, Ngata T, Brown S, Robson B. Initiation of maternity care for young Māori women under 20 years of age. N Z Med J. 2014;127(1393):52–61.Google Scholar
  19. Mead HM. Tikanga Māori: living by Māori values. Wellington: Huia; 2003.Google Scholar
  20. Moewaka Barnes H. Kaupapa Māori: explaining the ordinary. 2000. Retrieved from
  21. Moewaka Barnes H, McCreanor T, Edwards S, Borell B. Epstemological domination: social science ethics in Aotearoa. In: Mertens DM, Ginsberg P, editors. The Sage handbook of social research ethics. Thousand Oaks: SAGE; 2008. p. 442–57.Google Scholar
  22. Nursing Council of New Zealand. Guidelines for cultural safety, the Treaty of Waitangi, and Maori health in nursing education and health. 2011. Retrieved from
  23. Royal TAC. The woven universe: selected writings of Rev. Māori Marsden. Ōtaki: Te Wānanga-o-Raukawa; 2003.Google Scholar
  24. Ruger JP. Social risk management: reducing disparities in risk, vulnerability and poverty equitability bioethics and human rights. Med Law. 2008;27:109–18.Google Scholar
  25. Sherwood J. Colonisation – it’s bad for your health: the context of aboriginal health. Contemp Nurse. 2013;46(1):28–40.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  26. Sherwood J, Kendall S. Reframing spaces by building relationships: community collaborative participatory action research with aboriginal mothers in prison. Contemp Nurse. 2013;46(1): 83–94.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  27. Smith LT. Decolonizing methodologies: research and indigenous peoples. Dunedin: University of Otago Press; 1999.Google Scholar
  28. Smith LT. Kaupapa Māori research. In: Battiste M, editor. Reclaiming indigenous voice and vision. Vancouver: UBC Press; 2000. p. 225–47.Google Scholar
  29. Smith LT. Decolonizing methodologies: research and indigenous peoples. 2nd ed. London: Zed Books; 2012.Google Scholar
  30. Statistics New Zealand. 2013 census quick statistics about Māori. 2013. Retrieved from
  31. Walker S, Eketone A, Gibbs A. An exploration of kaupapa Maori research, its principles, processes and applications. Int J Soc Res Methodol. 2006;9(4):331–44.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  32. Walter M, Andersen C. Indigenous statistics: a qualitative research methodology. Walnut Creek: Left Coast Press; 2013.Google Scholar
  33. Wilson D. Ngā kairaranga oranga – the weavers of health and wellbeing: a grounded theory study. Wellington: Massey University – Wellington; 2004. Retrieved from Scholar
  34. Wilson D, Haretuku R. Te Tiriti o Waitangi/treaty of Waitangi 1840: its influence on health practice. In: Wepa D, editor. Cultural safety in Aotearoa New Zealand. Melbourne: Cambridge University Press; 2015. p. 79–99.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  35. Wilson D, Hickey H. Māori health: Māori- and whānau-centred practice. In: Wepa D, editor. Cultural safety in Aotearoa New Zealand. Melbourne: Cambridge University Press; 2015. p. 235–51.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  36. Wilson D, Neville S. Culturally safe research with vulnerable populations. Contemp Nurse. 2009;33(1):69–79.CrossRefGoogle Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer Nature Singapore Pte Ltd. 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Auckland University of TechnologyAucklandNew Zealand

Personalised recommendations