Researching with Aboriginal Women as an Aboriginal Woman Researcher

Fredericks, Bronwyn (2008) Researching with Aboriginal Women as an Aboriginal Woman Researcher. Australian Feminist Studies, 23(55), pp. 113-129.

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Tewa man Gregory Cajete describes the concept of Pathway as it relates to Indigenous learning and education:

The concept of Pathway, revealed in numerous ways in Indigenous education, is associated with mountains, winds, and orientation. Learning involves a transformation that unfolds through time and space. Pathway, a structural metaphor, combines with the process of journeying to form an active context for learning about spirit. Pathway is an appropriate metaphor since, in every learning process, we metaphorically travel an internal, and many times external, landscape. In travelling a Pathway, we make stops, encounter and overcome obstacles, recognise and interpret signs, seek answers, and follow the tracks of those entities that have something to teach us. We create ourselves anew. Path denotes a structure; Way implies a process (Cajete 1994, 55).

I drew on the work of Cajete to develop a framework for my PhD research exploring ‘how the relationship between health services and Aboriginal women can be more empowering from the viewpoints of Aboriginal women’. The assumption underpinning this thesis was that empowering and re-empowering practices for Aboriginal women can lead to improved health outcomes. The research methodology can be understood as laying out the Path, as a well developed structure or the plan for the research. It relates as an external landscape not just in terms of the Path itself, but also the research process within the landscape of the site of the research, Rockhampton. The Way, being the process, involved enabling a clear, stepped out process for me to follow and also one for me within my Self. In undertaking my thesis research I, travelled an internal landscape in the journey of the Self and came to terms with myself as an Indigenous woman researcher. I came to learn that I needed to make stops, that I would encounter and need to overcome obstacles, recognise and interpret signs, seek answers and follow the tracks of others that had been before me and who had something to teach me. I also understand that, within the Pathway of the research, I have created new ways for others to see Aboriginal women, new ways for Aboriginal women to have voices, share voices and more fully comprehend themselves and each other within a research process that they participated in developing. I know that I have come to understand myself more clearly as an Indigenous woman researcher, and that I have come to view myself in new ways.

This paper will firstly provide a brief overview of issues pertaining to Aboriginal research, issues that I needed to consider when contemplating and undertaking research with Aboriginal women within the community of Rockhampton. This is the broader landscape in which the research was based and which I believe may be used to inform research with Aboriginal women in other areas. Secondly, I explore issues specific to myself as a researcher and, more importantly, as an Indigenous woman researcher. It shows the issues connected with being an Indigenous researcher, that is, as a new traveller within the broader landscape of research. Thirdly, I give a brief overview of how the research process was developed, how supervisors were selected for this research, and some of research methodologies as they relate to this research project with Aboriginal women.

Impact and interest:

4 citations in Scopus
3 citations in Web of Science®
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ID Code: 13439
Item Type: Journal Article
Refereed: Yes
Additional Information: For more information, please refer to the journal's website (see hypertext link) or contact the author.
Keywords: Aboriginal, Indigenous, Australia, Women, Research, Methodology, Indigenist, Insider Research, Feminist Participatory Action Research, Autoethnography, Supervision, Doctorate
DOI: 10.1080/08164640701816272
ISSN: 1465-3303
Divisions: Current > QUT Faculties and Divisions > Faculty of Education
Copyright Owner: Copyright 2008 Taylor & Francis
Copyright Statement: This is an electronic version of an article published in Australian Feminist Studies 23(55):pp. 113-129. Australian Feminist Studies is available online at informaworld
Deposited On: 02 May 2008 00:00
Last Modified: 29 Feb 2012 13:48

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