Historically research carried out ‘on’ Indigenous people has been used as a tool of colonisation and controlled by researchers who are not themselves, Indigenous. Typically applying a deficit lens, research findings have unsurprisingly resulted in divisions within nations states and generated a sense of ‘mainstream’ and ‘other’. Findings were rarely applicable to Indigenous settings and utilised to maintain power and control for non-Indigenous peoples.
Fortunately, Indigenous research in many countries has undergone a transformation over the last two decades with the emergence of Indigenous research theories such as Kaupapa Māori Research. Key principles of many of these theories include a valuing of traditional and contemporary Indigenous knowledge; shared control between academics and communities; utilisation of results to transform societies at all levels; and research practice based on Indigenous ways of being and knowing. Indigenous research theory and practice is developmental in nature and decolonising in its actions.
Over the last decade three Indigenous research centres have developed in Aotearoa utilising these principles. While all three have a focus on Māori health and wellbeing, each has emerged from a very different pathway. Whakauae Research is a tribally owned research centre located in a small town in New Zealand; Taupua Waiora is a Māori research centre located at Auckland University of Technology; and WAI Research is part of a large urban Māori health provider in West Auckland; Te Whānau o Waipareira Trust.
The Māori academics from each of these centres will share their respective stories of how they take control and shape the research agenda for Māori health. The stories will document both the victories and the challenges in each of the settings and describe the mechanisms by which the research entities have been created. We convey our experiences as stories of innovation, courage, stamina and excellence in Indigenous research, providing examples of how Indigenous research centres may be constructed in a number of ways.