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A first in First Nations research

March 10, 2022

Three masters students from diverse cultural backgrounds are believed to be the first postgraduate students to use a unique Indigenous framework to guide their research.

Malika Abdul, Ale Ingabire and Nicole Lam conducted a systematic literature review of Indigenous food sovereignty as part of their degrees at Bond University.

The study is being prepared for submission to a journal but it is the way they went about the research that sets it apart.

The trio of Master of Nutrition and Dietetic Practice students used the new Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Quality Appraisal Tool (QAT) developed by Hartfield et al to benchmark their work from an Indigenous perspective.

The tool consists of 14 questions covering issues such as community consultation, the translation of findings into policy and practice, and benefits to communities involved.

The students were mentored during their research by Bond University Indigenous academics Associate Professor Bindi Bennett and Assistant Professor Kelly Menzel.

Dr Menzel said it was rare for First Nations viewpoints to be considered when setting out on a research project.

“Because of the socio-political history of Australia, people with good intentions wander into a (research) space but end up doing things incorrectly.

“These guys didn't do that. It was done really sensitively and appropriately.”

Dr Bennett said she believed it was the first time the QAT had been used in a research project.

“The process was just so respectful and inclusive, and I think that is really role-modelling to the next set of students and to the next university that might be thinking of doing it.

“We would be proud to introduce them to our communities and say, we think that they'd be good to work with. They've shown great cultural responsiveness - and they're incredibly bright.”

Ms Abdul has Fijian Indian heritage, Mt Ingabire was born in Burundi, and Ms Lam is a Hong Konger.

Ms Lam said she tried to avoid “using that Western lens of ‘this is how the study is done’.”

“We have to go into it with the attitude of, ‘Can you teach me how to do it in your way, so we can all work towards a solution together’?”

Ms Abdul said she strived to “learn about other cultures, and other ways of doing things”.

Mr Ingabire said everyone had biases in the way they saw the world “so being open minded to other ideas is a really key component to working with people and achieving something”.

The students hope to present their findings at an international conference when the research is published in a journal.