For the last week, Australia has celebrated NAIDOC week, with the theme being Get up! Stand up! Show up!
That’s exactly what’s happened in three rural health journals. Earlier this year, the Journals stated: It’s time to plant a flag in the White soil of academic journal publishing and declare, ‘This discourse includes the cultural voices of Indigenous Peoples’. They ‘got up’ and did something about including Indigenous cultural identity as part of author by-lines and credentials.
Furthermore, the editorial teams of the Canadian Journal of Rural Medicine (CJRM), Australian Journal of Rural Health (AJRH) and the Rural and Remote Health (RRH), changed their editorial rules so that research published about Indigenous peoples includes Indigenous peoples as authors, or evidence is provided of Indigenous peoples’ genuine engagement in all the stages of the research process, including crafting the manuscript.
The issue of author identity is especially relevant for rural and remote health journals because Indigenous peoples living in rural and remote health locations experience health inequities linked to racism and cultural suppression.
Health inequity linked to racism and cultural suppression
In addressing health inequities, system-wide reforms are called for in terms of increased participation of Indigenous peoples in the system from the ‘ward to the board’. This also needs to occur for systemic reforms in knowledge production and, in this case, academic journal governance. This expanding analysis, from the position statement to the ICIRAS article will move into the next phase of a systematic review. The reference lists in both articles attest to inequities in science generally and which the National Institutes of Health has called for ‘Ending Structural Racism’.
How to flag these reforms – Stand up
In health research publication, it is difficult to distinguish authors who self-identify as Indigenous peoples, for example, as First Nations, Aboriginal, Torres Strait Islander, Māori, Pacifica, American Indian, Alaskan Native, Métis, Inuit or as any of the 370 million Indigenous peoples worldwide.
Their invisibility is partly due to the lack of attribution in the publications; for instance, the author list – with first and last names only – restricts the conveyance of identity. Our goal as an academic community should be to expand the inclusiveness of research governance to include publication governance.
While visibility is addressed in the author by-line and author credentials, there are more steps to take. For example, there are symbols that ‘stand up’ for something in academia – the ORCID, PRISMA, CRediT, and SAGER – to this we propose ICIRAS, an Indigenous Cultural Identity of Research Authors Standard (pronounced ‘I-keye-ras’, short ‘I’ sound in Indigenous, hard ‘k’ sound for Culture and long ‘eye’ sound in Identity).
Why set this standard – ‘show up?’
The third part of NAIDOC 2022 is ‘show up’ and this means providing guidance on what else Journals can do to embed Indigenous peoples cultural voices in all aspects of their publication governance.
A standard means setting a bar for equity, diversity and inclusiveness. Currently, without any such agreed minimum standard, rural health research discourse reflects research colonialism and power imbalances. This history accords value to a degree, profession or organisational affiliation, but not deep cultural wisdom, and expertise. This must end, for example, through principles of:
- Aligning with current best practice in research with Indigenous peoples
- Promoting culturally safe publishing
- Acknowledging, including and respecting Indigenous researchers and participants
- Promoting culturally appropriate positionality
- Recognising Indigenous peoples’ knowledge sovereignty
- Respecting Indigenous peoples’ cultural authority and expertise
- Amplifying Indigenous peoples’ voices in research publications.
The three Journals have shown how to Get up! Stand up! Show up! for privileging the Indigenous Cultural Identity of Research Authors. We believe it shows that achieving equitable health outcomes with Indigenous peoples is linked to knowledge production processes that are culturally safe for Indigenous knowledges to be included in scientific journals.
Mark Lock is from the Ngiyampaa people, English and Scottish Convicts on the First Fleet (the Lucas Clan), Latvian immigrants, and Australian free colonists. I study concepts like holistic health, participation, integration, and cultural safety. I’m currently studying the commercial determinants of Indigenous health with Dr Jennifer Browne and the Murnong Health Research Mob.
Jennifer Browne is a non-Indigenous Canadian-born Australian. Mark and Jennifer are both research fellows within the Institute of Health Transformation and co-lead the Murnong Health Research Mob, which includes seven Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander researchers working together to improve health equity for First Nations peoples.