Conferences, Proceedings of the 3rd National Local Government Research Forum

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Researching with reciprocity? Meaningful participant-based research in a remote Indigenous community context
Thomas Michel, Julie-Ann Bassinder

Last modified: 2013-10-23


In culturally and geographically mainstream settings, evaluation and research of resident satisfaction with local government performance often relies on quantitative research methods, aimed at efficiently obtaining measurable responses and a statistically significant volume of data. Common tools include surveys conducted by phone-, online- and computer-based tools, with random sampling methods applied. This paper argues that these approaches alone are not suitable in a remote Indigenous community setting, and are likely to produce weak results for analytical purposes. Based on their research experience between 2009 and 2013 in the Northern Territory’s Victoria Daly and Roper Gulf Shires concerning local government service delivery and community governance issues, the authors recommend some alternative methodologies and tools for participant-based research in remote Indigenous community settings. Both a scale-based survey and open-ended questions were used, applying techniques such as flexible interviewing in culturally safe environments, deliberate strategies to overcome English language barriers, and remuneration for participants. The aim of the application of these methods was not only to obtain statistically reliable survey results and rich qualitative research data, but also to seek a mutually positive, respectful and beneficial experience between the research participants and researchers. This ‘researching with reciprocity’ approach may prove to be a useful research tool in other social contexts.

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