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As (budding) researchers, we have a responsibility to ensure that our research is conducted in a way that is respectful to, and does not harm, those who help us find answers to our research questions (i.e. participants) and/or furthers knowledge that is beneficial for society. This is a very big responsibility, and we can only ensure that we are conducting respectful and safe research if we have carefully considered all aspects of the research project.

Ethics and Research with Indigenous Communities

Research with Indigenous Communities underlies special considerations. Consider how in the past, Indigenous communities have been either completely ignored or been made part of research or investigation without their consent. The new ethical regulations are there to prevent any of this from happening again and need to be strictly adhered to.

Research Process

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When you have made the decision to enter a HDR training program you may have made this decision because you were intrigued by a particular research question. Some students have thought about a potential career path afterwards, but for many this may be a bit nebulous at this stage. Your HDR will equip you with a number of relevant work skills that are transferable to almost any kind of industry. Likewise, if you have entered the program after working for a while in a particular area, you will notice that many of the skills you acquired in your workplace will be relevant and transferable into the academic context.

Have a look at the info-graphic below to see which skills you will acquire or fine-tune during your research “apprenticeship”:

You will have noticed that many sections in this website give you first glimpses on how to get started developing these skills. In practice, the next years will equip you with many skills to begin or continue a meaningful career. In this section, we will focus on academic career planning with a view to you potentially becoming a contributing member to the academic community. Keep in mind that after you complete your HDR, other career paths will be open to you as well, but they are too many to cover here. There is an urgent need to have Indigenous academics contributing to knowledge and research approaches in a Western-dominated tertiary system; so you should find the following information helpful to get you started on your career path.:

Academic jobs

Academics work in university settings combining work in research, teaching, administration, publications and community service. The research work can be pure, applied or commercial. A substantial part of the research work is sourcing funding to conduct research. For this to be successful, it is helpful to have high academic standing. There are many ways in which funding can be obtained. For Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders, big grant packages are available through Australia’s major funding bodies, the Australian Research Council and the National Health and Medical Research Centre. Two schemes in particular are of interest here. Click on the links in the previous sentence for more information on those funding schemes. Note that the links will lead you out of this webpage and will open in a new tab. Other research funding might come from government or industry partners. The amount of funding from these sources varies. Tenders, which are usually commercial contracts, tend to be offered up to a certain amount, other schemes are more flexible and may be adjusted depending on how much the research costs.

Teaching can include teaching undergraduate students in larger classes or postgraduate students, usually in smaller classes or through supervision. We are not covering teaching experiences on these pages so you may feel like you won’t be equipped for this part of an academic role. However, most HDR students start teaching in tertiary settings by supporting undergraduate teaching as tutors or lab assistants or even being able to prepare and deliver lectures. If you are interested in teaching during your HDR journey, make sure to speak to your supervisor and the school you are affiliated with to identify opportunities.

Community services for academics can occur within the university as well as outside of the university. Within the university, service can take many different shapes – someone could become an ethics advisor for a school or faculty and support researchers before their applications are submitted to an ethics committee. Or an academic could take the role of an equity advisor for the school. Other tasks could be helping out on open days that are often on weekends, or facilitating tours for high school students. These roles may require substantial time contributions from the academic and are hence part of the job description and performance markers.

In addition to all these generic tasks for academics, Indigenous academics fulfill an important role by contributing to producing new Indigenous knowledges for communities, disciplines and society in general. This will help in the development of more socially aware, educated and informed members of society.

The path to becoming an academic

Usually, you will need to have a Doctors of Philosophy (PhD) or a Professional Doctorate (Doctorate of xxx) to receive an appointment as an academic. In some cases Masters’ qualifications may be sufficient, but this may limit your career opportunities. Most Masters programs allow you to articulate into a PhD If you can prove that your research project is big enough to fulfill the criteria of a PhD. Speak to your supervisor about these opportunities if you are interested in an academic career.

Once you have your PhD, you can apply for academic positions. They rank from level A (Assistant Lecturer/Postdoctoral Fellow) to Level E (Professor). See the infographic for a short description of the different levels.


Brewer, K.M., Harwood, M. L. N., McCann, C. M., Crengle, S. M., & Worrall, L. E. (2014). The Use of Interpretive Description Within Kaupapa Māori Research. Qualitative Health Research, 24(9), 1287–1297. https://doi.org/10.1177/1049732314546002

Church, A.T., & Katigbak, M. S. (2002). Indigenization of psychology in the Philippines. International Journal of Psychology, 37(3), 129–148. https://doi.org/10.1080/00207590143000315

Drawson, A.S., Toombs, E., & Mushquash, C. J. (2017). Indigenous research methods: A systematic review. International Indigenous Policy Journal, 8(2). https://doi.org/10.18584/iipj.2017.8.2.5

Lavallee, L. (2009). Practical Application of an Indigenous Research Framework and Two Qualitative Indigenous Research Methods: Sharing Circles and Anishnaabe Symbol-Based Reflection. International Journal of Qualitative Methods, 8(1), pp22-40.

Kelly, J. (2008). Moving Forward Together in Aboriginal Women’s Health:
A Participatory Action Research Exploring Knowledge Sharing, Working Together and Addressing Issues Collaboratively in Urban Primary Health Care Settings
. Dissertation. Flinders University

Ku Kahakalau (2004). Indigenous Action Research: Bridging Western and Indigenous Research Methodologies. Hulili: Multidisciplinary Research on Hawaiian Well-Being, 1(1).

McCleland, A.(2011). Culturally Safe Nursing Research: Exploring the Use of an Indigenous Research Methodology From an Indigenous Researcher’s Perspective. Journal of Transcultural Nursing, 22(4), 362–367. https://doi.org/10.1177/1043659611414141

Moreton-Robinson, A. (2013). Towards an Australian Indigenous Women’s Standpoint Theory. A Methodological Tool Australian Feminist Studies, Volume 28(78), Pages 331-347.

Moustakas, C. (1990). Heuristic research: Design, methodology, and applications. London: Sage.

Pe-Pua. (1989). Pagtatanong-tanong: A cross-cultural research method. International Journal of Intercultural Relations, 13(2), 147–163. https://doi.org/10.1016/0147-1767(89)90003-5

Pe-Pua, & Protacio-Marcelino, E. A. (2000). Sikolohiyang Pilipino (Filipino psychology): A legacy of Virgilio G. Enriquez. Asian Journal of Social Psychology, 3(1), 49–71. https://doi.org/10.1111/1467-839X.00054

Smith, L.T. (1999). Decolonizing methodologies : research and indigenous peoples. Zed Books.

Stronach, M.M. & Adair, D. (2014). Dadirri: Using a Philosophical Approach to Research to Build Trust between a Non-Indigenous Researcher and Indigenous Participants. Cosmopolitan Civil Societies, 6(2), 117–134. https://doi.org/10.5130/ccs.v6i2.3859

Weber-Pillwax, C. (2004). Indigenous Researchers and Indigenous Research Methods: Cultural Influences or Cultural Determinants of Research Methods, Pimatisiw. A Journal of Aboriginal and Indigenous Community Health 2(1); pp. 77-90.

Yunggirringa, D. & Garnggulkpuy, J. (2007). ‘Yolngu Participatory Action
Research’, paper presented to Moving Forwards Together; Action
Learning and Action Research, Tauondi College, Port Adelaide


Frequently Asked Questions

When you start your ethics application it is important that you know exactly what you are going to do – what your research questions are, how you are collecting data, from whom and what you are going to do with the data. So, the best way to start your ethics application is by going through your methods step by step ensuring that you know all bits and pieces that are important to your research so you can talk about them in detail and in layman’s terms for your ethics application.

Check out the Ethics and Research Process pages on this web site and the ethics sheet for more information.

Changes in research approaches are not uncommon. You will need to inform the ethics office at your institution about those changes, though. In most cases, it is sufficient to submit a so-called variation request in which you state the changes to your protocol, and also amend the previously submitted files where necessary. At many institutions this can be done via email, but it is recommended you check with your ethics advisors on how to best proceed as this may depend on the scope of changes.

This is a tricky question and there is not one answer that fits all as a start into a HDR journey depends on where you come from (e.g. industry or university), what you are interested in and if or if not you already know who you want to work with as your supervisory team. If you are from outside the university, but have an idea of what you want to research, it might be best to identify the faculty and school that suits your needs best and get in touch with the respective postgraduate coordinator to see how you can best identify people who can help you.

If you are from within the university, it might be easiest to speak to the lecturers and unit coordinators you have come across and see if they can help you along.

In addition to understanding who your supervisory team might be, it will also make sense to familiarise yourself with the requirements for the HDR journey you are interested in so you know what you will need to deliver.

Also engage with the information on choosing a supervisor and the milestone process.

Reading critically and writing academically are two very specialised skills that need ongoing training. Most institutions offer training courses for HDR students for both skill sets. It will be best to check with your library or institution for appropriate workshops.

Also engage with the information sheet on critical reading and academic writing from the web page.

No. While you are very likely going to use a qualitative data collection method when you are engaging in research with Indigenous Communities, it is not appropriate the use a Western model to engage in this kind of research. When researching with Indigenous Communities, you will need to find a methodology and method that are appropriate for the context that you working within.

Explore the pages on Indigenous Research Methodologies and Methods to learn more about appropriate ways in engaging with Indigenous communities.

No. The skills you learn during your HDR journey are very broad-set and are useful and applicable in a number of contexts. For example, public speaking and presenting are important in many industry contexts and so are project management skills. All of these and more are skill you will learn and develop during your HDR journey.

Engage with the section and skill development and career planning to learn more about the skills you will learn.

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