MHDCD Project

3.1. Decolonisation

Maori woman, academic and author Linda Tuhiwai Smith describes research with Indigenous communities as a site of significant ongoing contestation, not only at the level of epistemology or methodology but also as an organised scholarly activity that is deeply connected to power (2005, 87). She has proposed the use of a ‘decolonization framework’ (1999; 2005, 88) as a means of challenging the reproduction of social relations of power in research involving Indigenous communities, and refocusing the institution of research. Shedding colonialism for both the ‘colonised’ and ‘coloniser’ evokes a process of overturning the dominant way of seeing the world and representing realities in ways that do not replicate colonial values and worldviews (McLeod, 2000, 37-39 in Green & Baldry 2008, 397).  Adopting a decolonisation framework in a research context means ‘taking apart the story, revealing underlying texts, and giving voice to things that are often known’ (Smith 1999, 3) by Indigenous peoples as a means to ‘redress the constructs used by academics and governments’ (Sherwood 2010, 121). Aboriginal academic Juanita Sherwood has set out the way that Aboriginal researchers with like-minded non-Indigenous researchers are able to ‘shift the paradigm of research from one that silences and problematises to a praxis that is safe and respectful and encourages informants to share their wisdom, since they know they will be heard’ (2010, 120). From such praxis a process can emerge that becomes a ‘two-way sharing and learning encounter that contributes to the building of valid and meaningful data’ (Sherwood 2010, 120).

The IAMHDCD Project team is made up of both Indigenous and non-Indigenous researchers seeking to contribute to a research space that is safe and respectful for Indigenous participants, and that privileges Indigenous narratives and lived experiences. The project is premised on an acknowledgement of the ways that research has been marked by the problematising, pathologising and marginalising of Indigenous voices. We seek to develop new understandings of how Indigenous persons with MHDCD who are or have been in the criminal justice system experience and interpret the conglomeration of events and interventions in their lives through a qualitative investigation of the experiences and views of Indigenous men and women who have been in these circumstances, as well as family and community members and service providers. Qualitative research protocols and procedures developed as part of the project provide the framework for engaging in and developing active partnerships with Indigenous Community Controlled Organisations in the qualitative research process.

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