Evaluate sources for their reliability, bias and usefulness and select, collect, record and organise relevant geographical data and information, using ethical protocols, from a range of appropriate primary and secondary sources
Collecting quantitative and qualitative data using ethical research methods, including the use of protocols for consultation with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities
Why is it important to apply ethical methods and protocols when evaluating sources?
Information can be collected from a range of primary and secondary sources for recording and evaluation
Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples offer unique perspectives on Australia’s geography.
Often, in the past, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples’ knowledge hasn’t been sought out by people conducting research. In the majority of cases, these researchers haven’t been Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander people. This means some research has excluded vital considerations in the development of possible solutions and denied participation of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people, which may have highlighted cultural, environmental and spiritual answers to many research questions.
Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander perspectives can sometimes be included as sources; however, this can also sometimes be a token gesture or not given due consideration.
When researchers from non-Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander backgrounds assess information, their own cultural biases and perceptions of the usefulness and reliability of Aboriginal and Torres Strait sources have often given this information a lower priority.
Researchers have at times used unethical and inappropriate methods when researching Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander sources, which can be offensive and can lead to the development and collection of incorrect and often culturally biased information.
Data, both quantitative and qualitative, may be harder to attain from Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander sources than from other sources. This is due to different approaches to organising and categorising information and the high degree of suspicion and reservation Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people may have in talking to researchers and data collection agencies.
Facts about issues relating to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples have often been misrepresented as some researchers don’t always consider all information. Negative information presenting a very bleak outlook may have been overlooked or considered unreliable or alternatively, sometimes researchers have highlighted the negatives and over-exaggerated situations to make a point. In either case, it’s inappropriate and unethical to report biased findings.
Sometimes individuals and communities are reluctant to assist researchers as, time after time, they haven’t seen any positive outcome from their input. In addition, remuneration has often been tokenistic and problematic.
For Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples to share their perspectives or have genuine input into research, a relationship based on respect and trust is essential.
In many instances, the collated data of research undertaken in Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities has never been shared with the communities. This disregards relationships and opportunities for the communities to learn from the research.
Sometimes individuals and communities are reluctant to assist researchers, as time after time, they haven’t seen any positive outcome as a result of their input, and often remuneration has been tokenistic and problematic.
Anecdotal and unqualifiable data, meaning information that’s passed on orally or through art, has often been completely ignored or not considered with the same regard as other data by researchers. This has meant the exclusion of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander information sources on a large-scale due to the practice of passing on law and culture through stories, art, song, music and dance.
When undertaking research, it’s important to know how to evaluate sources appropriately. To do this, it’s essential to have an understanding of research methods, cultural considerations and appropriate protocols for working with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people.
There are many different ways that communities develop and discuss solutions to issues that face them and some of these approaches may challenge typical research skills and methodologies.
Creation stories and strong connections to the environment link Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people closely to the land. Understanding this intimate connection and how it’s interpreted into community life enables researchers to develop more detailed understandings of the importance of land for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples.
There are protocols that Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people use to ensure sacred places and practices are respectfully maintained long term. The impact of colonisation has damaged these practices and, in some instances, destroyed them. This has interrupted the ongoing relationships that Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples have with land and in community life.
Historically, and still today in many instances, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities hold knowledge hierarchically within their kinship structures. This means that knowledge sets aren’t shared evenly across all people within a community; the significant cultural knowledge of Elders and other knowledge-holders cannot be freely disclosed.
Western systems value knowledge as something which is open and to be explored. This means that specific knowledge isn’t owned by a person but something that can be sought and obtained from those being asked.
This can be problematic when respecting the intellectual property rights of individuals and their right to determine what knowledge to share and under what circumstances. Intellectual property rights are evolving, and individuals must be familiar with them when researching information and data.
Indigenous Australia for Dummies, Behrendt, L, QLD, John Wiley and Sons Australia Ltd, 2013
There are many ways to respond, including:
Understand the need to respect the intellectual property and cultural rights, values and expectations of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities.
When evaluating sources look for evidence that research was undertaken in a culturally respectful and sensitive manner, and in accordance with local culture and practice.
Look for evidence that the research was authorised by participants and that cultural protocols were met.
Check local guides for appropriate terminology and processes for engaging with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander individuals and communities.