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“Weaving a Mat That We Can All Sit On”: Qualitative Research Approaches for Productive Dialogue in the Intercultural Space

Emma Haynes, Minitja Marawili, Alice Mitchell, Roz Walker, Judith Katzenellenbogen, Dawn Bessarab

2022 Australia

Abstract: Research remains a site of struggle for First Nations peoples globally. Biomedical research often reinforces existing power structures, perpetuating ongoing colonisation by dominating research priorities, resource allocation, policies, and services. Addressing systemic health inequities requires decolonising methodologies to facilitate new understandings and approaches. These methodologies promote a creative tension and productive intercultural dialogue between First Nations and Western epistemologies. Concurrently, the potential of critical theory, social science, and community participatory action research approaches to effectively prioritise First Nations peoples’ lived experience within the biomedical worldview is increasingly recognised. This article describes learnings regarding research methods that enable a better understanding of the lived experience of rheumatic heart disease—an intractable, potent marker of health inequity for First Nations Australians, requiring long-term engagement in the troubled intersection between Indigenist and biomedical worldviews. Working with Yolηu (Aboriginal) co-researchers from remote Northern Territory (Australia), the concept of ganma (turbulent co-mingling of salt and fresh water) was foundational for understanding and applying relationality (gurrutu), deep listening (nhina, nhäma ga ηäma), and the use of metaphors— approaches that strengthen productive dialogue, described by Yolηu co-researchers as weaving a ‘mat we can all sit on’. The research results are reported in a subsequent article.

health inequalities; co-design and community engagement; First Nations; Australian Aboriginal; Socially Disadvantaged Communities; innovative research practices; decolonising method- ologies; intercultural; productive dialogue