Research Services Ethics & Integrity Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Research Ethics Definitions: Roles and Responsibilities in Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Research
The term “cultural broker” is not particularly defined in the literature but is defined through common usage as a person who facilitates the border crossing of another person or group of people from one culture to another, “the act of bridging, linking or mediating between groups or persons of differing cultural backgrounds for the purpose of reducing conflict or producing change”. (Jezewski, in Jezewski & Sotnik, 2001)
A cultural broker can play a crucial role at the start of the research process bridging the cultural divide to facilitate a smooth introduction and interaction between the researcher and the Aboriginal and/or Torres Strait Islander community. The cultural broker may then only be involved on a needs basis however the involvement may be ongoing throughout the research process especially if there is need for negotiation or mediation. A cultural broker may be a person from the Aboriginal and/or Torres Strait Islander group or community or a professional person who has an understanding of the world views and cultural values, beliefs and practices of both parties. The person will have contact with both the researchers and the participant group or community.
A cultural mentor is someone who can teach you about local customs and norms. They can provide tips on doing business more effectively and advise you when you stumble. (Segal 2009)
A cultural mentor is involved throughout the research process providing advice about world views and cultural values, beliefs and practices and associated protocols which need to be followed. The cultural mentor will have a general understanding of the world views and cultural values, beliefs and practices of the participants but might not have contact with the Aboriginal and/or Torres Strait Islander group or community throughout the research process. A cultural mentor may be a person from the participant group or community or a professional/academic person.
(Note: The roles of cultural broker and cultural mentor may overlap with one person carrying out both roles.)
In some cases it may be appropriate for the researcher to have the benefit of a reference group of Aboriginal and/or Torres Strait Islander people to guide the research. Members of the group will have a general understanding of the world views and cultural values and beliefs of the participants and the researchers. Members may include elders, community members and members who have an understanding and expertise in the specific discipline or profession in relation to the research. Reference groups are involved throughout the research process.
The role and responsibilities of Post Graduate Supervisors is available on the Graduate Research School website. It should also be noted that Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander Co or Associate Supervisors may also provide some advice from a cultural broker and/or cultural mentor perspective.