This discussion paper explores how and why Indigenous knowledge and research methodologies need to be urgently recognised as critical components of transformative research in order to improve social and emotional wellbeing (SEWB) for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people. The paper explicates the concepts and application of a critically reflexive and transformative Indigenous Research Methodology (IRM)—Aboriginal Participatory Action Research (APAR)—designed to centre and increase Indigenous voice and ‘epistemic self-determination’ in Indigenous research and psychology. The intent is to justify and legitimate Indigenous knowledges and methodologies as authentic, rightful, valued, and critical components of transformative research in Indigenous contexts to build self-determination in communities, strengthen Indigenous SEWB and Australian Indigenous psychology.
This is an urgent and crucial project, given Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities are seeking individual, family, and collective solutions to psychological distress and high suicide rates, which are the legacy of complex forms of trauma and dispossession inflicted by a genocidal settler culture. This paper describes how by extending and Indigenising conventional Participatory Action Research (PAR) principles, protocols and practice, APAR has been successfully applied to achieve Indigenous voice and epistemic self-determination, strengthen community SEWB and contribute to the development of a distinctive Indigenous psychology. Each of these outcomes are evident in three innovative Indigenous mental health and wellbeing strength-based empowerment projects, outlined in the paper.