Can I just pick your brains? or What’s Indigenous Knowledge worth to you?

A quick post that’s really just asking a question …

If you decide to undertake a research degree (ie. a research Masters or a PhD) and your chosen topic is around Aboriginal and/or Torres Strait Islander cultures, peoples, communities etc, is there not an assumption that you will have a least a little more than rudimentary knowledge?

If you don’t have more than a surface knowledge, wouldn’t you make it your business to connect with Aboriginal and/or Torres Strait Islander people in your institution (at the very least) and Aboriginal and/or Torres Strait Islander people in the community in which you’re living?

You can’t  just be “studying” this “topic” just because it’s something that interests you.

Because surely, if you’re going to do a research degree on this “topic”, you have discussed your proposal with actual Indigenous people, and a number of them. And that discussion then allowed you to further clarify your thesis proposal. And then in undertaking the thesis, you are talking to actual people, so you can be challenged on your assumptions in order to gain a deeper understanding of nuances of culture.

But if you need further clarification you should have already formed relationships with Indigenous academics in your institutions. And because your knowledge is not rudimentary, you already know that those relationships, like all effective relationship, can’t be one-sided. You already know that you shouldn’t be using their knowledge and experience (Indigenous people who have taken a lifetime of lived experience to develop their understandings and conceptualisation of their Indigeneity) for yourself, sucking out their knowledge like a Dementor sucking out all life. And if you are going to seek out Indigenous academics from your institution, you know that they then need to be given the opportunity to have their role formalised in a supervisory role (even perhaps as an additional Associate Supervisor).

Aboriginal knowledge shouldn’t be expected to be handed out for free. We’re not running a charity here folks. Indigenous academics have careers and KPIs to meet. And every “can I pick your brains, I’ll buy you a coffee” is time spent away from their own research work.

All this above should make you realise that if you need to go to Twitter to ask the basic questions (like a “correct academic citation on how many Aboriginal nations there are”), perhaps you need to rethink what you’re doing and why you thought you were ready for a PhD. Indigenous people (including those on social media) are not there to be your free cultural awareness trainers. It takes a lifetime of investment to develop understanding.  And if you want it, then you need to pay up.

Okay, so I may not actually be asking a question …

+ Kicked off today by an actual Tweet, but brewing for well over a decade.