Working Both-Ways: Using Participatory and Standardised Methodologies with Indigenous Australians in a Study of Remote Community Safety and Wellbeing

Sue Sutton, Nathalie Baxter, Kim Grey, Judy Putt

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    This paper offers reflections on our experience and learning arising from implementing a study design that used evaluation research to pursue multiple benefits. The Community Safety and Wellbeing Study adopted a mixed methods approach, referred to as a ‘both-ways’ (or two-ways) research model, that addressed decision maker's needs and heard the people's voice. The study design was inspired by a both-ways learning model and attempted to address both needs together. The aim of the study was to involve local people in communities and encourage them to share their views about changes in community safety. Through systematic research it provided a voice for Indigenous Australians affected by the Northern Territory Emergency Response (NTER), often called ‘the intervention’. Regardless of views about the intervention, this paper aims to share the lessons learned from conducting this study. The mixed method approach involved a community based standardised survey and qualitative data collection techniques. The study was undertaken in a representative sample of 17 NTER communities with over 1300 local residents, around five percent of the relevant population. Over 60 Indigenous people were employed in conducting the study; the majority lived in or had strong ties with remote communities in the study and around 10 had significant experience with social research projects. The research had many objectives in addition to providing evidence on outcomes on a multi-faceted and sometimes controversial government policy. Ethically the research had to have benefit for the people and communities involved. In addition, the community had to be able to see there were benefits from the research for them, not just for government. This paper documents how these objectives were achieved in relation to the methodology, content, data collection and reporting aspects of the research, and discusses what worked and what could be done differently in the future
    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)30-40
    JournalEvaluation Journal of Australasia
    Issue number4
    Publication statusPublished - 2016

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