Indigenous Methodological Approach to Research and Leadership

Monday, 1 July 2019
Barbara Bynder

The philosophy of leadership is a Western European construct (Alfred 2009) and remains contested amongst scholars today (Bolden et al 2011). Despite this, the philosophy of leadership and its relationship with research is identified by universities, as an important part of Indigenous higher education and presents an opportunity for Aboriginal voices to be included within the academy to encourage the potential for institutional change. Burns cited in Alfred (2009) defines leadership:

“Leadership is the recognition of real need, the uncovering and exploiting of contradictions among values and between values and practice; the realigning of values, the reorganizing of institutions where necessary and the governance of change” (p.70).

Burns’ reference to values and values practice highlights issues about leadership within contemporary society and the relationship that the idea of leadership has with Indigenous society. Values and values practice of the dominant society differ greatly to those of Indigenous society and remain distant from the dominant discourse of higher education and its institutions. An example of this is the idea of art as a legitimate methodological approach to research. Universities perceive art as a separate discourse to social sciences and humanities. However, art is a resource for research reflection and the transfer of knowledge within Indigenous society founded in Indigenous value systems for knowledge transfer from one generation to the next. Catherine Berndt argues that “art has meaning” (Berndt 1978, p. 95) and is a significant practise of knowledge transfer for Aboriginal cultures that is ongoing today.

This presentation explores the idea of leadership in research using art as reflective practice and as an Indigenous methodological approach to research inclusive of Indigenous philosophy and value systems. This presentation exercises personal experience of higher education as an example of an Indigenous methodological approach to research within the dominant discourse and includes institutional values and value systems professed to be best practice in research design.