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Please knock before you enter: Aboriginal regulation of outsiders and the implications for researchers

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Product Description

By Karen L Martin

Published: 2008
ISBN: 978-1-921214-37-0
Pages: 170 (PDF version)
Imprint: Post Pressed


The regulation of Outsiders to Aboriginal Country is theorised by scholars as invasion and contact, race relations, frontiers and acculturation. In these theories Aboriginal People are represented as powerless and hopeless in the face of their inevitable assimilation. Aboriginal regulation of Outsiders is rarely investigated for Aboriginal agency.

This research study investigates the agency of a Rainforest Aboriginal Community in the regulation of Outsiders to their Country of past, present and future. It provides an Indigenist research paradigm founded on the principles of cultural respect and cultural safety and embedded in Aboriginal ontology, epistemology and axiology.

The challenge for western research and researchers is to engage research as an interface where conceptual, cultural and historical spaces interface or come alongside each other based on new relationships to knowledge, to research and to self. The protocols developed for this research study provide seven rules for research to direct culturally safe and respectful researcher behaviour and ensure researcher responsibilities and accountabilities to the Burungu, Kuku-Yalanji, the research study and the academy are fulfilled. When research is transformed in this way, it is itself, transformative and works towards achieving Aboriginal sovereignty in research.

Karen Martin's thesis was highly praised by two internationally renowned scholars. Professor Norman Denzin, (University of Illinois) remarked:

this is a brilliant and stunning dissertation, original in conception and bold in execution... Relatedness theory is a major contribution to this literature.

Professor Manulani Meyer, (University of Hawaii) celebrated this work for its cultural truth and integrity and wrote:

Her research showed flair, originality, depth and significant independent scholarship within an Aboriginal community. It has brought us new insights into a people and Nation that will help our own knowledge systems evolve... Her work is timely.

The thesis was also jointly awarded the Australian Association for Research in Education Doctoral Research in Education Award (2007).

Table of Contents


Research ceremony, preparation phase: The ceremony of research

  • Preface: How to engage with this thesis
  • Quandamoopah cultural traditions, conventions and expectations
    • Presenting the research stories: Prologue, first stories and visual stories
  • Storywork: A meta-process
  • Writing decisions and meeting cultural and academic conventions
  • Structure of the dissertation

Chapter One: Introduction and Background

Where have our stories gone? Preparation phase, research ceremony phase one

  • Aboriginal research: Early patterns in the dispossession of our stories
  • Aboriginal research: Recent patterns in the dispossession of our stories
  • Aboriginal research: Changing patterns and different ways of researching
  • Aboriginal research: Invisibility, dispossession and Native Title research
  • The Burungu, Kuku-Yalanji and the research study
  • The research study: Assumptions, questions and the upgrade
  • Conclusion

Chapter Two: Reviewing the Literature

Searching for the old stories: Initial phase, research ceremony phase one

  • Aboriginal research stories: Invasion, colonialism and outsiders
  • Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal contact experiences in Far North Queensland
  • Invasion and race relations in Far North Queensland
    • Tin mining and logging
    • Sugar and agriculture
    • Marine-based industries
  • Segregation and protection, assimilation and acculturation
    • The Lutheran Church
    • Queensland Government
  • Aboriginal agency and outsiders: Implications for the research study
  • Aboriginal research scholarship
    • Critical race theory
    • Whiteness studies
    • Aboriginal post-colonialism
    • Decolonisation and Aboriginal research
  • Aboriginal post-colonialism and Aboriginal research in Australia
  • Implications for the research study
  • Conclusion

Chapter Three: Indigenist Research Theory

The stories of relatedness: Initial phase, research ceremony phase one

  • Quandamoopah ontology: Worldview, stories and relatedness
  • Quandamoopah ontology and the first story of Worldview
    • The ancestral core
    • The spirits
    • The entities of Quandamoopah
    • The filter
  • Relatedness: An ontological premise
    • The depths of relatedness
  • The Quampie story: Epistemology and relatedness
  • Marine mud
  • The ancestral core
  • The three knowledge bands
  • Ways of knowing
    • Ways of knowing: Knowing how we are related
  • Ways of being
    • Respecting relatedness
    • Relatedness and responsibility
    • Relatedness and accountability
  • Ways of doing
    • Ways of doing: Processes of living relatedness
    • Ways of doing: Practices of living relatedness
    • Relatedness, ontology, epistemology and Indigenist research
  • Defining ontology
    • Ontology and Indigenist research paradigm
  • Defining epistemology
  • Relatedness theory and Indigenist research projects
    • Relatedness theory: Ways of knowing and the project of critique
    • Relatedness theory: Ways of Being and the project of re-framing
    • Relatedness theory: Ways of doing and the project of harmonisation
  • Conclusion

Chapter Four: Indigenist Research Methodology

A way to gather and remember stories: Research ceremony phase two, core phase

  • Indigenist research: Answering questions of methodology
  • The Quampie story and Quampie methodology
  • Phase one: Starting out in relatedness
  • Phase two: the research interface
  • Phase three: Inquiry and immersion
    • Storywork: Fishing for information
  • Phase Four: Indigenist research projects and research
    • Ways of knowing: Indigenist research project of critique
    • Ways of being: Indigenist research project of re-framing
    • Ways of doing: Indigenist research project of harmonisation
    • Indigenist research methodology, relatedness and heuristic indwelling
  • Quampie methodology: Concluding comments
  • Quampie methodology and the Burungu, Kuku-Yalanji research study
  • Phase Two: Research before buru
    • Analysis of key studies of Burungu and Kuku-Yalanji peoples
    • Pre-study visits to Mossman and Buru
    • Articulating an Indigenist research paradigm
  • Phase Three: Research at Buru
    • Buru study visits
    • Storyworking with Mr Fischer
    • Analysis of Burungu, Kuku-Yalanji literature
    • Analysis of wet tropics world heritage area literature
  • Phase Four: Research after Buru
    • Research and the project of critique
    • Research and the project of re-framing
    • Research and the project of harmonisation
    • Conclusion

Chapter Five: Burungu, Kuku-Yalanji Regulation of Outsiders

'We been here first' (Fischer 2001a), The research stories: Research ceremony phase two, core phase

  • (Burungu, Kuku-Yalanji research stories, relatedness and outsiders)
  • (The Buru Boundary signs: the anchor point for research stories)
  • (Burungu, Kuku-Yalanji entities)
    • (Buru ancestors and creators: Research stories)
    • (Land: Burungu, Kuku-Yalanji Research stories)
    • (Waterways: Burungu, Kuku-Yalanji research stories)
    • (Climate: Burungu, Kuku-Yalanji research stories)
    • (Plants: Burungu, Kuku-Yalanji research stories)
    • (Animals: Burungu, Kuku-Yalanji research stories)
    • (Skies: Burungu, Kuku-Yalanji research stories)
    • (People: Burungu, Kuku-Yalanji research stories)
  • (People -- People: Regulating relatedness)
  • (Burungu Kuku-Yalanji regulation of ngarrbal, waybal and jarwon as madja)
    • (Who or what is an outsider?)
  • (Burungu, Kuku-Yalanji regulation of Ngarrbal: Indirect and direct regulation)
    • (Indirect regulation)
    • (Direct regulation)
  • (Burungu Kuku-Yalanji regulation of Waybal: Limited interaction, limited engagement)
    • (Limited interaction and limited engagement)
    • (Missions and missionaries)
    • (Visitors)
    • (Research and researchers)
  • ('Please respect our Land... Please respect the wishes of our elders': Burungu, Kuku-Yalanji regulation of Jarwon: Sustained engagement)
  • ('Enjoy your stay and thankyou' Burungu, Kuku-Yalanji as madja and the regulation of tourists)
    • (Regulating Tourists: Limited interaction, indirect and direct regulation)
  • (Direct regulation: Respect the land)
  • (Direct regulation: Protect the land)
  • (Indirect regulation: Respect the land)
  • (Yalakuda Ngulkur Bajaku: Burungu, Kuku-Yalanji as madja)
  • (Burungu, Kuku-Yalanji as madja: Coming amongst and coming alongside)
    • (Coming amongst: Regulating people in country)
    • (Inviting specific people to Buru)
  • (Coming alongside: Regulating outsiders)
    • ('Talk the true word': Honesty)
    • ('Walk one way together': Cooperation
    • )(Showing respect)
  • (Regulating relatedness: Away from Buru)
  • (Summarising the research stories)
  • Conclusion

Chapter Six: Implications for Aboriginal Research and Indigenist Researchers

Research after Buru: Research ceremony phase three, final phase

  • Research stories: Protocols for research
  • Coming amongst and coming alongside the Burungu, Kuku-Yalanji entities
  • 'Coming alongside' the Burungu, Kuku-Yalanji: Protocols for research
  • Protocols for research
    • Research rules: Respect for self and others
    • Researcher responsibility: Obeying the research rules
    • Researcher accountability
  • Reality checking and member checking: Relevance and rigour in research
    • Presenting the protocols to Burungu, Kuku-Yalanji at Buru
    • Presenting the protocols to Mr Fischer
  • The Research interface: Aboriginal research, Indigenist research and researchers
  • Coming amongst and coming alongside: Implications for Indigenist researchers and Aboriginal research
  • Conclusion

Chapter Seven: Significance, Limitations, Application And Thesis Statement

Concluding the research study: Research ceremony phase four, closing phase

  • Research study original contributions to knowledge
    • New relationships to knowledge: Burungu, Kuku-Yalanji regulation of outsiders
    • Indigenist research: New relationships to research
  • Limitations of the research study and further applications
    • Application of Indigenist research scholarship
  • Conclusion: Research study thesis statement

Legislation cited


Martin, K.E. (2007) Please Knock Before You Enter: Aboriginal Regulation of Outsiders and the Implications for Researchers. Post Pressed: Teneriffe, QLD.

by Dennis Foley, Australian Journal of Indigenous Education 38 (2009) 110-112

This is an interesting book for Indigenous and non-Indigenous readers both for its writing style and Indigenous approach to knowledge; it is a very important addition to Indigenous post-colonial approaches to knowledge. The inclusion of poetry and reflection however I found detracted from the content. This text left me divided; my spirit and heart supports its methodological approach and cultural content, the rational part of me rejected its ‘academic-thesis' format.

It may appear relatively insignificant but why do scholars who turn their doctoral dissertations into a book leave in the academic talk; the terminology that confirms you are reading their thesis. A thesis should be one thing, a book is something else. The two are written for two different audiences and should remain so as separate texts (Marantz, 1980). I found it difficult as an academic to have the book continually remind me that it was a ‘thesis'. The cognitive response is that the reader is forced to analyse it as such. The layout is standard thesis, introduction and background, literature review and so on. The result is a tardy approach to ‘book' writing when the contextual discussion has so much promise. The thesis is unfortunately limited by a somewhat superficial literature review and methodological argument.

The author included some gems of knowledge such as West, Rigney, Nakata, Moreton-Robinson, Huggins and others. Yet there are many names absent from the reference list. Names that are synonymous in the forging of Australian Indigenous thought; knowledge systems that were not born, rather they were hatched through our early educators who obtained recognised ‘Western' qualifications in the 1960s and 1970s when the Indigenous word was only being partially accepted in education circles. Nakata (2007) writes of the ‘cultural interface', yet it is the early Indigenous Australian scholars that laid the academic foundation forging a cultural interface and we must acknowledge them in our work for we stand on their shoulders. I felt that Martin missed this golden opportunity to present an Indigenous academic argument within the coloniser's framework depicting the struggle thus providing a literature review that was historically grounded.

Aunty Kath Walker's (Oodgeroo Noonuccal) very words ring in my own ears concerning the succession of knowledge and the place our early qualified educators have in the process of retaining Indigenous knowledge within the constructs of colonisation. Tripcony is briefly mentioned, but not her seminal works, nor Budby, Bourke, Hughes, Duncan, Evelyn Webb, May O'Brien, Ted Penny, and many, many others whose work builds the foundation for Nakata's argument and indeed Rigney, Moreton-Robinson, Huggins and others.

Arguably, Aboriginal epistemology is ‘allowed' or ‘tolerated' within the walls of academia only because of the battles that our Aboriginal predecessors fought. Many in this struggle never obtained a PhD so to have this terminology of the ‘thesis' repeated, mixed in throughout the beginning of the text detracts from the valuable content that is within ‘the book'.

At the author's expense my research higher degree students have been able to learn from Martin's oversight which is the beauty of Indigenous knowledge circles, of how our epistemology is not static, it is a journey. Perhaps my views will be seen by some as unnecessarily critical and I accept that this is a personal opinion, however as a thesis this work fell short in addressing the literature that could have been reviewed, but in Martin's defence ‘how long is a piece of string?' Has she undertaken a work set within strict parameters different to my comprehension or the perceived guidelines that other Indigenous supervisors would suggest, or did non-Indigenous supervision direct a journey that was narrower? As a reviewer we need to question these possibilities, the ‘what if?'.

I am always concerned in Aboriginal writing of the potential infiltration of writing styles that emphasise sympathy or the exoticness of the specimen, the zookeeper's prize. Martin does not display any of these flaws in what is otherwise an accomplished work. The strength of the author's research journey and cultural understanding is initially illustrated when Martin researches in rainforest country (p. 32) (and followed up in more detail in Chapter 5). As the author is a saltwater woman she finds herself working in rainforest country within freshwater lore. This is a research scenario that the untrained Indigenous or the non-Indigenous researcher would not even consider to be an issue. Geographically, culturally and spiritually Martin is the outsider - an alien, the dispossessing academic yet she empathises with the participants and the land in a way that many non-Indigenous researchers cannot (or possibly do not) understand, and this is brought to the readers' attention early in the text (thesis). Martin illustrates the interface - the dilemma and how she approaches this where the outsider becomes perched on (or immersed within) the division that is the researcher who by the research framework is the dispossessor and the Indigenous researched - the dispossessed:

‘... these dilemmas highlighted the multiple and complex dimensions inherent in being an Outsider who is both Aboriginal and also a researcher' (p. 32).

Martin by the use of the rainforest example provides a subtle comparison of the academic rape in her own lands.

For the readers' information, Stradbroke Island (Martin's homeland) suffers many social problems, perhaps the ugliest of which is the destructive tit for tat argument of who is a traditional owner and who is not. Nearly two hundred years of forced removal, mission mismanagement, cross-marriage, restricted living, several land claims (some possibly ill informed), numerous non-Indigenous ‘academic' experts, mining royalties, alleged payoffs, and short-sighted government funding together with numerous programmes without positive outcomes has exacerbated social division. Martin has not addressed the repercussions and divisions within her society as this work tackles a larger issue that is applicable to most if not all Indigenous peoples and I applaud her for this position. Martin's work is about moving on in a positive manner, deconstructing research consequences which are in reality mirrored in poor research undertaken in her own lands. No doubt this is a contributing factor as to why her community currently faces so much internal bickering which justifies the need for such academic questioning.

The book contains a cultural message that is cleverly achieved with the overlapping of language, identity, especially the author's self-identity, applying this to land and interweaving the words of local entities especially the words of Aunty Kath Walker (Oodgeroo Noonuccal). Without detracting from Martin's work this is a technique developed and later used to maximum effect in Veronica Arbon's (2008) text Arlathirnda Ngurkarnda Ityirnda; Being-Knowing-Doing: De-colonising Indigenous Tertiary Education.

My interest in the text increased around page 51 when the literature review discusses critical race theory. This is where it gets meaty. She writes that critical race theory focuses on race and racism and the representations of racialised subjects: it is the use of epistemologies informed by identity and culture that enable critical race theorists to see understand and move beyond positions of inclusion and exclusion, it allows them to occupy transcendent positions and the capacity to work out of different sets of relationships to self and others. There are different relationships not only to the self and others, the relationships to knowledge are also different. They detect the corrupting erosive devices of Western ideologies and theories to interrogate disrupt and transform research. With shared understandings and common experiences they forge libratory epistemologies - and address issues of voice and narrative in research, critical theory demands critique of how racialised relationships between the researcher and the researched are perpetuated. The denial of agency, gives focus on how whiteness is centred and normalised, racialised.

Constructed around this inclusivity of the racialised the naming of one's own reality (Martin), not including ‘others' but transforming their own agency (and action?), this offers little in reconstruction. The result is the development of ethnic research paradigms truly grounded in ethnic epistemologies; first by critiquing of the other and its effects for radicalised ‘others', second by understanding how ‘othering' is constructed to benefit whites.

On page 52 Martin explains whiteness studies; simply you have to understand the power and privilege in which race and whiteness shape oppression theorising subjectivity and agency in terms of race and whiteness. The risk is that
whiteness studies could re-centre white researchers renewing their privilege. Thus critical whiteness studies emerged re-asserting the need to interrogate whiteness as a racialised and institutionalised construct of a given context, in Australia this interrogation must occur as a dialogic and selfreflexive relationship where Aboriginal sovereignty and dispossession is the reference point. She goes on to state that in Australia this demands a different understanding of race and racism, many Aboriginal scholars assert different relationships to knowledge (p. 53) at the very least they seek Aboriginal agency, but Aboriginal agency is the ultimate goal. This is based in the inalienable rights and relationships of Aboriginal peoples to country thus dialogue from around the world has emerged in terms of Indigenous post-colonialism. I feel this is the central theme of Martin's work as she goes on to say, the core premise of post-colonial studies is to interrogate colonialism in all forms challenging existing colonial structures and holding them to account; validating Aboriginal knowledge and realities.

Martin clarifies decolonisation and Aboriginal research on page 53 often defined in terms of its processes and goals rather than by a definitive summation explanation. The Aboriginal scholar's discussion of the nature of decolonisation informs the purpose, processes and contexts in which it is applied. Aboriginal post-colonialism highlights the different needs of Aboriginal peoples as researchers because of the recognition of different dimensions (standpoints?) which are the need to decolonise, and the need to build capacity (p. 61).

My students both Māori and Aboriginal have benefited by Martin's application and explanation of critical race theory however this text is much more. The Quampie Story and Quampie Methodology Chapter 4 (pp. 91-103) provides an understanding to the reader of the matrix - the complexity that is Indigenous epistemology and methodological approach. Chapter 4 is compelling reading as Martin provides an insight into research phases that are defined by non-Aboriginal expectation, convention and tradition and Aboriginal expectation, conventions and tradition. Each phase is defined by Aboriginal ontology, epistemology and axiology and refined in terms of non-Aboriginal traditions and expectations (p. 103). Take your time
over this important chapter as Martin's writing style is that of a lady. I am afraid I would have been a tad more confronting in some explanations.

Chapter 5 lets the reader journey into the application of Martin's theory, the Burungu, Kuku-Yalanji's regulation of outsiders. Outsiders have been studying, invading, colonising and travelling since the 1860s however the Burungu, Kuku-Yalanji have always regulated their agency. Martin weaves her journey into one of explanation.

So Please Knock Before you Enter could be summarised as a journey discussing agency, what it means to three different groups, the Indigenous researcher the non-Indigenous researcher and most importantly the subject, the Indigenous.

... the thesis posited by this research study is their agency has been exercised and is attributed to the simple but profound respects for and regulation of relatedness. With relatedness as the premise and impetus, there is no such thing as Outsider, or Other, but Another (p. 149).

No outsider, or other, but another. We talk of reconciliation, what a thoughtful contribution to understanding Aboriginal research, the connotations of another is inclusive with reciprocal respects, so knock before you enter, and read this book for its wonderful content and Martin's journey.

To quote Martin again in quoting Aunty Kath (Oodgeroo Noonuccal) in the conclusion (p. 148):

now she is happy

because she can always talk with the tribes

whenever she wants to

An apt conclusion, or a commencement to a thought provoking text.


Arbon, V. (2008). Arlathirnda Ngurkarnda Ityirnda: Being-knowing-doing: De-colonising Indigenous tertiary education. Teneriffe QLD: Post Pressed.
Marantz, K. (1980). Studies in art education. National Art Education Association, 22 (1): 70-71.
Nakata, M. (2007). Disciplining the savages, savaging the disciplines. Canberra ACT: Aboriginal Studies Press.

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