Unethical research practice is revealed in my analysis of Australian cultural safety research in the publication ‘Australian Healthcare Governance and the Cultural Safety and Security of Australia’s First Peoples‘. This post highlights a culturally dangerous research article and I am calling for its retraction #culturallydangerous.
An Archetype of Culturally Unsafe Research
Sian Truasheim published Cultural Safety for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Adults within Australian Music Therapy Practices (2014, Queensland) to ‘increase the consideration of cultural safety within music therapy programs accessed by Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples’.
Garbage research disrespects First Nations peoples. In contrast to the high-end research of Kendall and Marshall (2004) and the quality of Rigby et al.’s (2011) research processes, Truasheim (2014) provides no explanation of her methodological or empirical design, no reporting of ethics process, used untrained researchers, published client health information, and had no inclusion of First Nations academics or oversight process.
Bitter taste of cultural concept soup. It is also an example of ‘cultural concept soup’ – using ‘awareness’, ‘safety’, ‘sensitivity’, ‘appropriate’ health care, and ‘appropriate services’, jumbling them together without any theoretical thinking. Truasheim’s article exemplifies the insensitivity to the history of the politics of research processes and Australia’s First Peoples and reflects poorly on the research governance of the Institute for Urban Indigenous Health (the attribution for this paper).
Culturally dangerous unethical research. Not only is the Institute for Urban Indigenous Health responsible for ethical oversight of research projects, so is the journal in which the article is published – the Australian Journal of Music Therapy (a peer reviewed publication) as the journal of the Australian Music Therapy Association whose Code of Ethics purports to adhere to ‘ethical responsibilities in research’. I am advocating that the article be retracted.
Colonisation through academic naivete. Along with Belfrage (2007), Nguyen (2008), and Skellet (2012), the article from Truasheim (2014) continues the trajectory where non-First Nations professionals write about their interpretation of a culturally safe experience – which is not checked with the recipients – but are naïve to academic writing practice as an extension of the colonising research ethic. Therefore, while they acknowledge power differentials at the clinician and patient micro-level, they simultaneously perpetuate power imbalance in the knowledge economy.
Organisational Responsibility for Knowledge Governance
“Culturally unsafe research practice diminishes, demeans and disempowers Aboriginal people through poor research design, unethical processes, untrained researchers, using participant information without consent, and excludes Aboriginal peoples’ perspectives” Mark Lock
Think about these types of factors when you are reading journal articles about cultural safety and First Nations Australians, and speak up about culturally unsafe research!
Truasheim S., (2014). Cultural Safety for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Adults within Australian Music Therapy Practices. Australian Journal of Music Therapy. Vol.25:135-147.
Kendall E., Marshall C.A., (2004). Factors That Prevent Equitable Access to Rehabilitation for Aboriginal Australians with Disabilities: The Need for Culturally Safe Rehabilitation. Rehabilitation Psychology. Vol.49(1):5-13.
Rigby W., Duffy E., Manners J., Latham H., Lyons L., Crawford L., Eldridge R., (2011). Closing the Gap: Cultural Safety in Indigenous Health Education. Contemp Nurse. Vol.37(1):21-30.
Belfrage M., (2007). Why “Culturally Safe” Health Care? Medical Journal of Australia. Vol.186(10):537.
Nguyen H.T., (2008). Patient Centred Care – Cultural Safety in Indigenous Health. Australian Family Physician. Vol.37(12):990-994.
Skellett L., (2012). Cultural Awareness and Cultural Safety. Australian Pharmacist.382-384.
Attribution: Lock, M.J. (9 January 2020), [online]. Calling Out Rubbish Research about First Nations Australians #1. [Committix Blog]. Retrieved from: