Toward a positive psychology of indigenous thriving and reciprocal research partnership model

Rhonda G. Craven, Richard M. Ryan, Janet Mooney, Robert J. Vallerand, Anthony Dillon, Fabri Blacklock, Natasha Magson

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

55 Scopus citations


There are many examples of Indigenous success in the current Australian context. However, little is known about how to identify, measure, and emulate these successes more broadly. Partly, this can be attributed to an array of theoretical and methodological limitations that have plagued Indigenous Australian research. The latter include a lack of concerted research being founded upon the voices and agency of Indigenous children, youth, and communities and a lack of large-scale quantitative research. Hence, Indigenous Australian research has often failed to yield a translational evidence-base resulting in meaningful policy and impacts of salience to Indigenous Australians. Simultaneously, positive psychology, with its emphasis on explicating how individuals can thrive and get the most out of life, has become an increasingly important part of contemporary scientific psychology. Rather than replacing conventional psychology, positive psychology adds to it, broadening the study of human experience. Many tenants of positive psychology are aligned with Indigenous conceptualizations of human experience, especially those emphasizing the wholeness and interrelatedness of human experiences. In addition, positive psychology focuses on strengths, and Indigenous leaders, organizations, and community members’ prefer approaches, whereby Indigenous strengths are identified so that they can be emulated more broadly. In this paper, we describe our implementation of a reciprocal research partnership model of Indigenous thriving, utilizing a research framework founded upon both positive psychology principles and holistic Indigenous Australian worldviews. This model prioritizes the voices and agency of Indigenous people and proposes that research be conducted in partnership as opposed to research being imposed on Indigenous communities, and it focuses on Indigenous Australian strengths as opposed to deficit approaches. After acknowledging the disadvantages that Indigenous Australians face, we describe this strengths-based approach and how its utilization of Indigenous research methodologies in combination with Western approaches can contribute to a new approach to translational research of salience to Indigenous Australians. We then review extant theory and research that supports elements of the proposed model. We further suggest its potential for practical innovation in Australia and how, if successful, this new approach may also find application in other Indigenous populations and, more broadly, for disenfranchised groups around the globe.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)32-43
Number of pages12
JournalContemporary Educational Psychology
StatePublished - 1 Oct 2016

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2016 The Authors


  • Indigenous research
  • Model of indigenous thriving
  • Positive psychology
  • Positive psychology of success
  • Self determination theory
  • Self-concept


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