Using Participatory Action Research to Enable Capacity Building in the First Nations Health Research Workforce

Sophie Hickey, Sarah Jade Maidment, Kayla Heinemann, Sue Kildea, Yvette Roe

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapterpeer-review


When well-supported, community researchers (also known as peer interviewers) play a vital role in building relationships with participants and stakeholders, gathering information and critically reflecting on how research can be used to transform the social world around them. Participatory Action Research (PAR) can be a very effective method in health services research to facilitate this process and engage all team members in reflective, collaborative research practice, resulting in positive changes for the health service. By design, it creates opportunities to respond to changes that community and service users want, and have asked for, without having to wait for the research project to be completed. PAR is recommended in many countries as an appropriate method for researching with First Nations people and is highly valued by First Nations people. They can be involved at every stage of the research to ensure that the research is meaningful and used to make positive changes in health and well-being outcomes. Given the increasing demand of specialized maternity care services to improve First Nations maternal and infant health outcomes in Australia, it is important to support a First Nations workforce to undertake research evaluations of such services to ensure the services are responsive to community need - both culturally and clinically In this chapter, we describe our experiences setting up a PAR team that consisted of all five authors. Specifically, we focus on the mentoring and growth of two First Nations women working on the Indigenous Birthing in an Urban Setting Study (IBUS) over the last 5 years. Both women had no previous experience working in health or research. With the guidance from senior researchers, including a senior First Nations researcher, they gained the skills needed to do high quality maternity care research. The community researchers undertook on-the-job research training learning to explain the research aims and consent women to participate, conduct surveys and qualitative interviews, as well as gaining confidence to build rapport with families in the context of a research interaction. They were essential to the research and ensuring the voices and experiences of women and families accessing the maternity service were included in its ongoing service design and delivery. We describe how we collectively supported the PAR team to undertake high quality research and how we used research to make change, while remaining accountable to women and their stories. We reflect on our personal growth and the importance of having a multidisciplinary and supportive team to inspire and motivate each other to undertake further applied research work. We encourage others to use PAR to enable capacity building in the First Nations midwifery and health research more broadly.

Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationHandbook of Social Inclusion
Subtitle of host publicationResearch and Practices in Health and Social Sciences
EditorsPranee Liamputtong
Place of PublicationCham
PublisherSpringer, Cham
Number of pages18
ISBN (Electronic)9783030895945
ISBN (Print)9783030895938
Publication statusPublished - 14 May 2022


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