The principles are:
- Indigenous Self-Determination
- Indigenous Leadership
- Impact and Value
- Sustainability and Accountability
Indigenous Self-Determination refers to the right of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples to be engaged in research that affects or is of particular significance to Indigenous peoples. Engagement in research is different to consultation: consultation is one form of engagement, but is not sufficient in all situations (see Section 1.4-1.6, 1.9 of the Guide to Applying the AIATSIS Code for a detailed explanation, as well as examples of consultation and engagement processes).
At ANU: Researchers must provide evidence of engagement in their ethics application. This may be informal (e.g., conversation logs detailing how the research project came about). However, where the research involves or is conducted in collaboration with a particular community, group or organisation, a formal written agreement (a protocol, memorandum of understanding or contract) should be provided. All parties involved in the research should discuss and agree on, for example:
- the aims, objectives, methods and potential outcomes of the research
- who will participate
- how decisions will be made
- ownership of Indigenous knowledge, cultural expression and intellectual property at all stages of research, including the research agreement process (pre-discussion, negotiation and before signing).
For guidance on what should be included in written research agreements:
Refer also to Section 1.3 of the Guide for information on Indigenous Cultural and Intellectual Property (including moral rights and intellectual property).
Further information on Indigenous Cultural and Intellectual Property (ICIP):
Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander research should be led by Indigenous peoples. This means that Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples should have genuine decision-making power, and the research should be informed by Indigenous priorities, values, perspectives and voices at all stages of the research process.
At ANU: Researchers must demonstrate how their research is a priority for, or meets the needs of, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples. Again, this involves showing evidence of meaningful engagement in the planning and design of the project.
Principles, theories and practice relating to Indigenous Data Sovereignty and Governance should be followed. The ownership, management and communication of any data (including to data storing and the destruction of all or any data gathered) or information resulting from the project should be negotiated between the Indigenous peoples and the researcher/other parties involved (see Section 4.1 of the Guide to Applying the AIATSIS Code). This negotiation should occur before the data/information is collected, and should uphold “FAIR” and “CARE” data principles, Indigenous Protocols, traditional laws, customs and practices and revitalized customs and practices. The use of a data management plan for this purpose is strongly encouraged.
- FAIR: Findable, Accessible, Interoperable, Reusable
- CARE: Collective Benefit, Authority to Control, Responsibility, Ethics
Impact and Value: The Research process
Negotiating priorities with Indigenous communities is a key step in Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander research. Researchers should meaningfully consult (before, during and after the research process) all Indigenous communities that must be involved. To ensure there is no misunderstanding or assumptions made, the research team should regularly communicate and identify whether the Indigenous community (e.g., meeting the Elders, Chair/Board, Representative Body) understands and are able to meet the research milestones.
This also includes: regularly discussing and negotiating the potential benefits and risks of the research project; confirming that there is full agreement on what the agreed benefits are and how they will be delivered; listening to and addressing concerns the Indigenous participants have, and mitigating risks with the guidance of the Indigenous community/communities.
Indigenous Participants in the research should be afforded full disclosure in order that free and informed consent and the steps that were taken to confirm consent are evidenced.
- Free Prior and Informed Consent - an Indigenous Peoples' right and a good practice for local communities (UN guidance document)
At ANU: Researchers must demonstrate how the research project reflects Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples' perspectives and priorities. The researchers must describe how the benefits apply to the research participants, what potential risks the research carries, and how they can mitigate those risks, with respect to the cultural sensitivities of their participants. Researchers should have regular and ongoing discussions with the Indigenous community involved about the potential benefits and risks of the project. Researchers must demonstrate steps taken to ensure free and informed consent.
Sustainability and Accountability
Sustainability means “ensuring that Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander research is environmentally, culturally, socially and economically sustainable”. This principle re-emphasises the core value of integrity: acting in the right spirit. Researchers have responsibility over the long term for the impacts of their actions – whether this is delivering on promises made to Indigenous collaborators, ensuring that the Indigenous knowledge collected during the research is available for current and future generations (to be discussed and negotiated with Indigenous peoples), or fulfilling moral or personal obligations to meaningful relationships built with communities.
At ANU: Researchers need to demonstrate in their application that they have considered the future impact of their research. They need to show a plan for delivering research results, bringing the results back to Indigenous participants and communities (including community co-authorship, transcripts, PowerPoints, returning to community), and continuing adherence to the principles of Indigenous data sovereignty and governance. All researchers are expected to inform themselves on culturally appropriate behaviour and to show respect for Country and the Indigenous community they are visiting (all Indigenous communities are not alike), especially while doing fieldwork. It is also important to behave in an environmentally sustainable way and do no harm (AIATSIS Code).
COVID-19 and Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander research
In many cases, Indigenous communities are likely to be feeling the effects of the current crisis to a higher degree. To limit the spread of COVID-19, the University is advising researchers who are conducting engagement or approved research on-country and in remote communities to ensure that these communities are still willing to participate. From an ethical perspective the immediate needs of participants is paramount, and you must ensure that your participants are informed of the changing circumstances, and consent to the research/engagement continuing under the new circumstances as might apply in their own jurisdictions.
In terms of ongoing engagement or research that can be conducted remotely, the present situation may make research less of a priority for most participants and the University needs to anticipate, acknowledge and respect this. If participants remain willing, then the University is supportive of research activities conducted remotely, particularly research determined as beneficial by the communities themselves.
Researchers should consider a range of risk management processes for all research applications that have direct contact with Indigenous peoples, such as interviews and fieldwork. People living in rural and remote areas generally may not have conference call facilities of a similar capacity to those in urban areas to support 'remote' research arrangements. Further, we must respect the sensitivity and agency of these communities to determine how, when and to what extent they wish to engage with ANU, while we simultaneously ensure we mitigate risk of transmission. ANU staff and researchers must ensure that they are complying with all relevant laws and policies as they apply in the various States and Territories in which research is conducted, particularly as we, as a nation, manage the complex issues arising from the current pandemic.