The World Indigenous Research Alliance (WIRA): Mediating and mobilizing Indigenous Peoples’ educational knowledge and aspirations


  • Paul Whitinui University of Otago
  • Onowa McIvor University of Victoria
  • Boni Robertson Griffith University
  • Lindsay Morcom Queen's University
  • Kimo Cashman University of Hawai’i
  • Veronica Arbon The University of Adelaide



indigenous education, international, self-determination, collaborative research, aspirations, knowledge mobilization


There is an Indigenous resurgence in education occurring globally. For more than a century Euro-western approaches have controlled the provision and quality of education to, and for Indigenous peoples.  The World Indigenous Research Alliance (WIRA) established in 2012, is a grass-roots movement of Indigenous scholars passionate about making a difference for Indigenous peoples and their education. WIRA is a service-oriented endeavor designed by Indigenous scholars working in mainstream institutions to support each other and to provide culturally safe spaces to share ideas. This paper highlights how WIRA came to be, and outlines the nature and scope of these shared endeavours. Strategically, WIRA operates under the mandate of the World Indigenous Nations Higher Educational Consortium (WINHEC) who regularly report to the General Assembly of the United Nations Indigenous Peoples Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues (UNPFII) pertaining to Indigenous Peoples and their education (United Nations Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues, 2007). Indeed, this collaboration provides the opportunity to share best practices across respective countries, and to co-design interdisciplinary, dynamic and innovative educational research.  Since the inception of WIRA, a number of research priorities have emerged alongside potential funding models we believe can assist our shared work moving forward.  The launching of WIRA is timely, and sure to accelerate the goals envisaged by WINHEC, and Indigenous peoples aspirations in education more generally. 


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Author Biographies

Paul Whitinui, University of Otago

Paul Whitinui is from the Confederation of Tribes in the Far North (Ngā Puhi, Te Aupōuri, and Ngāti Kurī), and is currently an Associate Professor in Māori Teacher Education based in the College of Education, Dunedin, New Zealand.  Following a background in sport, physical education, health and teaching, Paul completed his doctorate in education at the University of Auckland in 2008 exploring the educational benefits of kapa haka (Māori performing art) for Māori students in mainstream secondary schools. Before arriving at Otago, and has lectured in community health, physical activity, fitness and education at the University of Waikato (2007-2011), as well as, Māori and Indigenous health and development at the University of Canterbury (2011-2012). 

Onowa McIvor, University of Victoria

Dr. Onowa McIvor is maskiko-nihiyaw from Norway House Cree Nation and also Scottish-Canadian on her father’s side. Onowa was raised in northern Saskatchewan and has been a visitor on Coast and Straits Salish territories for nearly 20 years. Onowa completed her Ph.D at the University of British Columbia in the Department of Language and Literacy Education in Adult Indigenous language learning. She has been the Director of Indigenous Education since 2008 and an Assistant Professor since 2012 in the Faculty of Education at the University of Victoria. Onowa’s research focuses on Indigenous language and cultural revitalization, sociocultural aspects of language learning and language education; second language acquisition; and cultural identity development and maintenance. However, her most important job is raising two young daughters with the help of her extended family.

Boni Robertson, Griffith University

Professor Robertson has worked in Indigenous Affairs and Indigenous Higher education at the State, National and International level for the past 37 years. She has been the Director of the Office Indigenous Community Engagement, Policy and Partnerships at Griffith University, Australia, for the past seven years, prior to which she held several Senior Advisory and Academic positions in Higher Education and Government. Professor Robertson’s interest is the Sociology of Education, Social Justice and Human Rights as it applies to Indigenous Nations. Professor Robertson has extensive experience working with communities in evidenced based research, addressing issues pertinent to the wellbeing and education of communities, and more specifically, women and children. Professor Robertson's research has had a significant impact on the development of policies regarding Indigenous Affairs. Professor Robertson's research   has also contributed broadly to enhancing the understanding of Indigenous issues in the broader non-Indigenous communities and to profiling the scholarship of Indigenous knowledge, knowledge systems and epistemology. 

Lindsay Morcom, Queen's University

Dr. Lindsay Morcom (Algonquin Metis, Bear Clan) is Assistant Professor, Queen’s University where she coordinates the Aboriginal Teachers Education Program.  She is an interdisciplinary researcher with experience in Education, Aboriginal languages, language revitalization, and linguistics.  She earned her Master’s degree in Linguistics from the University of Regina in 2006.  She then completed her doctorate in General Linguistics and Comparative Philology as a Rhodes Scholar at Oxford University in 2010.  Her main focus is on language education and immersion, and she studies this both in terms best practices in the classroom and policy development. She also researches in the areas of anti-racist education, land-based learning, Aboriginal perspectives on curriculum, and Aboriginal education in a Catholic school setting.

Kimo Cashman, University of Hawai’i

Dr. Cashman is an Associate Specialist in Native Hawaiian Education at the University of Hawaiʻi at Manoa College of Education where he serves as the Director of Aloha Kumu: Native Hawaiian Education and Research Alliance.  He taught at Nanakuli High and Intermediate School before coming to the University of Hawaiʻi in 2006. He teaches courses on qualitative research, Indigenous leadership, and art education. He currently lives in Wahiawa, Oʻahu with his wife and daughter. 

Veronica Arbon, The University of Adelaide

Associate Professor Veronica Arbon has been employed within tertiary education and particularly within Indigenous higher education for over 36 years. Dr. Arbon was the first Aboriginal Director of Batchelor Institute of Indigenous Tertiary Education and held one of the inaugural Chairs of Indigenous Knowledge Systems at Deakin University and after a short period of employment in at the University of Adelaide she returned to take up her present position in 2013. Focussed through Indigenous Knowledges and the quality of content, processes and practices within academic systems one of her doctoral studies is published as ‘Arlathirnda Ngurkarnda Ityirnda: Being-knowing-doing: De-Colonising Indigenous Tertiary Education. Dr. Arbon also holds a Bachelor of Arts, a Post Graduate Diploma in Educational Management and a Master of Education. As a multi-disciplinary researcher she works across adult education, student support in higher education, Aboriginal Women’s Wellbeing and family history/story, suicide intervention in Indigenous communities  and more recently climate change and how this may impact her local community. Dr. Arbon is a member of the National Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Indigenous Higher Education Advisory Council (NATSIHEC) and an invited member on a range of other committees while internationally, she is a member of the World Indigenous Nations Higher Education Consortium (WINHEC). Dr. Arbon is a proud Arabana woman from west of Kati Thanda - Lake Eyre in South Australia, who spent her early years in remote Australia particularly in the around Alice Springs and the Wilton/Roper River region of the Northern Territory before moving into Darwin.




How to Cite

Whitinui, P., McIvor, O., Robertson, B., Morcom, L., Cashman, K., & Arbon, V. (2015). The World Indigenous Research Alliance (WIRA): Mediating and mobilizing Indigenous Peoples’ educational knowledge and aspirations. Education Policy Analysis Archives, 23, 120.



Knowledge Mobilization in Education