Research involving Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Australians

Intentional Recruitment of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Peoples

Research involving Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples is particularly sensitive and all research involving Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples is reviewed by the full HREC.

Evidence of Engagement, Consultation and Negotiation

Respectful engagement, consultation and negotiation are central to conducting research with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples. AIATSIS Guidelines for Ethical Research in Australian Indigenous Studies (GERAIS) states that:

"It is essential that Indigenous people are full participants in research projects that concern them, share an understanding of the aims and methods of the research, and share the results of this work. At every stage, research with and about Indigenous peoples must be founded on a process of meaningful engagement and reciprocity between the researcher and Indigenous people."

Consultation and negotiation are key elements of four out of 14 principles that are set out in GERAIS. Namely:

  • Principle 6: Consultation, negotiation and free, prior and informed consent are the foundations for research with or about Indigenous peoples.
  • Principle 7: Responsibility for consultation and negotiation is ongoing.
  • Principle 8: Consultation and negotiation should achieve mutual understanding about the proposed research.
  • Principle 9: Negotiation should result in a formal agreement for the conduct of a research project.

Accordingly, ethical review of protocols involving Indigenous peoples requires evidence of engagement and consultation. Wherever possible, letters of support from community leaders or organisations that attest to the willingness of the community to be engaged within the research should be included in the ethics protocol. While it is understood that some documentation (e.g. permission to work within schools) may require ethics approval before it can be obtained, protocols will generally not be accepted for review by the HREC without evidence of consultation with relevant Indigenous communities and organisations. Such protocols will be returned to the researcher, and the researcher will be asked to provide relevant documentation as material evidence of engagement and support.

Additional Guidance

“Negotiation, consultation, agreement and mutual understanding” comprise only one of six categories of guidance provided by GERAIS. The GERAIS comprise of 14 principles grouped under the following six categories:

The NHMRC have also published Ethical conduct in research with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Peoples and communities (2018) and Keeping research on track II (2018)  to be read in conjunction with their general guidelines set out in the NHMRC National Statement on Ethical Conduct in Human Research. NHMRC summarises their guidance under six core values:

  • reciprocity
  • respect
  • equality
  • responsibility
  • survival and protection
  • spirit and integrity.

Indigenous Cultural and Intellectual Property (ICIP)

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