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The Meaning of Australian Indigenous Epistemology According to Indigenous Academics

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Indigenous scholars are every so often enticed to critical sociology and post-structuralism for their reproach of the positivism, grand theory, classic theories, and the functional perspective. West (2000) explains his journey as an Aboriginal Australian and states that as Indigenous Australian folks, the cultural rules decree that knowledge ought to only be shared with the most earnest people. This knowledge, nevertheless, is being presented in the treacherous space of the Western public domain, in which Australian academic world is the arbitrator, and its intellectual gentry, together with those who make up the groups, administrators and inspectors, are the adjudicators. Indigenous knowledge is something invisible to the Western epistemology and the Eurocentric knowledge, and its worldwide provision and growth theory (Battiste, 2005). In order to fight this thought and belief, Indigenous academics have tried to undo the trials confronted by their people by means of Eurocentric knowledge but were unsuccessful, and in turn, have turned to their ancestral teachings and knowledge. Sequentially, they have tried answering the question of what Indigenous knowledge and Indigenous epistemology is, in order to prove these claims wrong and explain to Eurocentric scholars, to whom the concept is almost alien.


There is not much literature from Australian Indigenous writers and scholars available that clearly and concisely explains what Australian Indigenous epistemology is. Different writers have written about different aspects of the topic in order to explain the basic understanding that lies behind the teaching and the culture. Indigenous epistemology can be defined as the philosophy of knowledge that is grounded on Indigenous standpoints, for instance, the interconnection of sacred and secular, relationality, and holism.

Peters (2017), an indigenous writer, describes Indigenous epistemology as concerning discerning about the means that Indigenous people can make use of to uphold a solid, Indigenous individuality while discovering achievement in the world of knowledge and academics, which is otherwise mainly dominated and controlled by Western means and epistemologies. Quoting Lynne Hume’s description from her book, Ancestral Power, he tries to explain the concept of dreaming as a complex yet vitally important feature of Aboriginal people and culture. Hume describes dreaming as an essential characteristic of Aboriginal epistemology and cosmology that is echoed all over the huge Australian continent, regardless of provincial differences, and offers the inherent connection amongst the land, human beings, and everything that inhabits it. Peter’s (2017) attempt at describing the Australian Indigenous epistemology revolves around cultural concepts embedded in the core of the Aboriginal people. The concept of Indigenous Knowledge (IK) suggests that Indigenous cultures, that have been honored over time, and individuals have profoundly rooted structures of knowledge that fashioned the basis of not solitarily their presence, but their sustainability, flexibility, and endurance. They have become acknowledged as a recognizable scheme of knowing, evidently distinct from Western knowledge for its main fundamentals of transfer, relationality, and contextuality. For Aboriginal Australians, IK can be a carrier of social pride and durability, confirming their culture by means of its reception in the ‘dominant’ educational setting.

Indigenous folks are linked to the corporeal and divine spectacle of what many call ‘the Earth’ in similar means as offspring are linked to their parents. As a kid’s expectations and sanctuaries, ambitions, and securities are important in their relations with their parents, so are Indigenous persons with Mother Earth. In attempts to explain the history and culture of the Aboriginal people, and the concept of Indigenous epistemology, West (2000) outlines a number of struggles that Aboriginal people and literature face in the process of teaching and imparting knowledge. He expresses that to propose knowledge of the characteristics of Aboriginal values to a scheme or culture where the essential belief is uncontrolled exposure, frequently for the reason of its inquisitiveness value, to a nation that often castoffs knowledge as promiscuously as wrappers the instant a novel thought befalls, is affected and philosophical. Reflecting on the distinction between Western epistemology and Indigenous knowledge, West’s (2000) concept of how to explain to the Western world what indigenous knowledge is, he states that Aboriginal epistemology is tangled with a figure of ideas and measures which are hard to interpret to Western teaching systems, as these schemes’ standards and actions are, nearly without disparity, contradictory in nature.

Indigenous epistemology is not valued to its full potential and is regarded by western scholars as not reliable; and this knowledge endures to be made use of as a social device that tyrannizes and plunders Indigenous people (Foley, 2003). Foley (2003) describes how the scientific explanation of Indigenous realism is distant from accurate and is entrenched in a scientific dissertation that has no Indigenous contribution. To enlighten what Indigenous theories encompass the Indigenous approaches, Foley (2009) paves the way through a number of theories like the critical theory, the feminist standpoint, standpoint theory, insider-outsider theory, etc. Defining the Indigenous philosophy, he states that it constitutes of three worlds’ interacting: the physical world, sacred world, and the human world. Aboriginal philosophy is the interconnection of these worlds, and the conceivable implementation of this Indigenous viewpoint into modern Indigenous dissertation in tactics to knowledge has been reinforced by the growth of two Australian Indigenous viewpoints: the Indigenist research perspective and Japanangka Paradigm. While the Japanangka Paradigm (Foley, 2003) states that Western epistemology varies to Indigenous Australian epistemology in the way that Indigenous Australians even now know the source, nature, approaches, and bounds of their knowledge systems, the Indigenist research perspective explains the Indigenous Australian’s struggle for identity and recognition.

There is a feminist standpoint view to the Indigenous epistemology too, which aims at describing the female side of the phenomenon. A part of the complication and trial of feminist standpoint concepts is the absence of a strong, clear definition. Fighting to push Indigenous knowledge and procedures as genuine and respected apparatuses of research, feminist and Indigenous researchers have a mutual consideration that their particular creation of knowledge is a spot of a continuous scuffle in contradiction of normative overriding patriarchal theoretical agendas. Seminal works by infamous feminist Indigenous writers advanced rational about the relationship between influence and the creation of knowledge. Their work endures having coinage inside the academy donating to the formation epistemological authority of women and updating the growth of a multiplicity of standpoint theories about politics, knowledge, and production of women. That is why feminist standpoint philosophers have aided in plotting the boundaries of feminism’s epistemology. Throughout the concept of defining the feminist viewpoint of Indigenous epistemology, a shared fiber all through this ideology and exertion is that Australian Indigenous investigation models are created on a structure of humanness that is established on the connectedness of the body to one’s particular country, ancestors, imaginative beings and entirely all living things.

Researchers and academics are now focused on advancing the future of Australian Indigenous education, to ensure that the essence of what truly Indigenous epistemology is not lost in meaning due to Western influence. Despite this wish, however, the study in Indigenous Australian teaching is at a standstill. Academics are still trekking out into the turf to search for novel knowledge to respond to ancient queries. Similar epistemology controls how Aboriginals search for, and where, whereas the practice offers the investigator with an involuntary option, one where either the pupil or the educator is liable for the absence of results in Indigenous teaching (Harrison, 2007). Focused on educating and the future of the Indigenous people, Harrison (2007) paints a picture of what the ideology is that gives identity to the Australian Aboriginals and compels them to be better educated in their ancestral ways, as well as the scientific aspects of Indigenous education. Examination practice, accompanied by knowledge and educating in schools, is driven by an epistemology that is grounded on the impression of knowledge as an entity that can be discovered rather than created. Furthermore, obviously, Western teaching is grounded on this interpretation of data and learning. It is a query of searching for the knowledge and being suitably driven with the intention to learn, and this might be operating when the aim of knowledge (and education) keeps on being stable, fixed and able to be generalized.


Indigenous epistemology is an invisible phenomenon to the Western epistemology and Eurocentric scholars. The definition of what it means by Australian Indigenous epistemology has been explained by various Indigenous academics, all in an attempt to defend its position against the Western ideologies. Centered around knowledge and relation to nature and all its aspects, Indigenous epistemology encompasses many perspectives like the Indigenist research perspective and Japanangka Paradigm. Indigenous epistemology helps gives Australian Aboriginals identity and ancient ways to ponder upon their problems and possible solutions.

All of the authors referenced in this document are either Indigenous people themselves or even if they are non-Aboriginals, they have some level of understanding of how the Western theories and Indigenous theories can be combined in some sort of way to procure harmony between the two ideas. Indigenous epistemology is defined as the connectedness of all beings in their existence, and these ideas are presented by academics from every and all perceptions. To answer what Indigenous epistemology is, there is also a feminist view which states that it is the connection of the body to one’s ancestral roots and being.

The literature presented in this paper does seem to answer to a certain extent, from multiple viewpoints, what Indigenous academics, scholars, and writers think Australian Indigenous epistemology is. With no very concrete definition, the concept is presented in multiple paradigms and relates to all ideas of being and knowledge. In conclusion, every theory suggested, or the future possibilities stated, and the multiple factors involved in what the whole theory is, Indigenous academics have given preference to it not being a useless, old ideology that Western people assume it is. While promoting tactics to improve Indigenous epistemology, Indigenous academics have given the answer to the question.


  • Battiste, Marie. (2005). Indigenous Knowledge: Foundations for First Nations. Worm Indigenous Nations Higher Education Consortium Journal.
  • Foley, D. (2003). Indigenous Epistemology and Indigenous Standpoint Theory. Social Alternatives.
  • Harrison, N. (2007). Where Do We Look Now? The Future of Research in Indigenous Australian Education. The Australian Journal Of Indigenous Education, 36, 1-5. doi: 10.1017/s1326011100004361
  • Moreton-Robinson, A. (2013). Towards an Australian Indigenous Women’s Standpoint Theory. Australian Feminist Studies, 28(78), 331-347. doi: 10.1080/08164649.2013.876664
  • West, Errol George. (2000). An alternative to existing Australian research and teaching

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