It is increasingly recognised that palliative care research needs to pay more attention to culture if the diverse needs of service users are to be appropriately met. However, in most countries research, practice and policy in palliative care remains predicated upon a specific cultural understanding of the ‘good death’, firmly rooted in a Western world view. In this paper we present the formation of a new multi-disciplinary palliative care research group, explicitly set up along bi-cultural lines – The Te Ārai Palliative Care and End of Life Research Group to face challenges of traditional paradigms of palliative care in the specific context of Aotearoa New Zealand (NZ). We outline the rationale for establishing a research group which meets both Māori (indigenous people of NZ) and conventional Western standards for conducting academic research, describe our bi-cultural framework, and provide examples of how it shaped the design of three recently completed projects. We also situate our experience within the wider international literature, identifying transferable lessons for researchers wanting to do palliative care research with indigenous and minority ethnic and cultural groups.