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Review of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander research ethics guidelines submission

This submission reflects the views of
Organisation Name: 
Murdoch University
Personal Details
General comments

These are our general comments.

The broader guidelines offer both specific guidance and the freedom needed to adjust for differences in research and people.

The Guidelines focus on responsibility and ethical behaviour. ‘Fair distribution of benefits of participating in research’ (Ethical conditions) is both a condition of research and is part of the broader idea of ‘responsibility’. As many researchers experience it is often not possible to ensure this. I cannot suggest a mechanism to achieve this given it is imperative not to be paternalistic or prescriptive.

The eight steps of the research journey (15-27): establishing relationships.

Researchers are often familiar with establishing relationships with elders and senior people in groups as per historical and traditional customs. It is equally as important, though often more difficult because we do not have the guidelines and because younger Indigenous people are exerting power more in line with non Indigenous youth and young adults. This group of Indigenous people may not have the same desires or agree with elders and senior people. Researchers need to be prepared for this.

When research deals with sensitive issues that may represent some Indigenous people and their actions negatively researchers may need, if they are to be honest in their findings, to report findings that will cause ill feeling. This cannot be a reason for under reporting of sensitive material. In some circumstances, Indigenous informants may want researchers to take responsibility for the findings in ways that provide a distance between informants and research findings. Ethical research requires researchers to meet this challenge. To do this requires researchers to have a strong board or support group.

The NHMRC is encouraged to consider:

  1. Funding future capacity building grants. There is still a glaring paucity of Aboriginal health research that is being undertaken by research prepared Aboriginal people.
  2. The length of time for funded projects. Any research with Aboriginal people requires careful relationship building and this often means up to 12 months of time at the start of the project is required. However, if funding is only for 3 years, then this process might be shortened – to everyone’s detriment.
  3. Translation is imperative and again, suffers from the same issue as relational building. More time is needed and this should be built in!
  4. Lastly, we have sufficient “discovery” “descriptive” projects. Aboriginal people need action oriented projects that have translational outcomes!

Page reviewed: 2 August, 2018