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Draft Road Map 3: A Strategic Framework for Improving Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Health through Research submission

Personal Details
First Name: 
Last Name: 
Specific Questions
Question 1A: Is the proposed objective of Road Map 3 relevant?: 
Question 1B: Why/why not? Please provide further comments to support your response to Question 1A.: 
See 5 below
Question 2A: Are the three priority areas of Road Map 3 accurate?: 
Question 2B: Why/why not? Please provide further comments to support your response to Question 2A: 
See 5 below
Question 3A: Are there any further priority areas to add? Please provide further details: 
See 5 below
Question 4: Is there anything missing from Road Map 3? Please provide further details: 
See 5 below
Question 5: Are there any other comments you would like to make regarding Road Map 3? Please provide details: 
The NHMRC has led Australia in seeing that an appropriate share of its funds are directed towards meeting the needs of the Aboriginal and Torres Strait island population. Road Map 3 builds on the earlier Road Maps and everything in it, can, and should be supported. However, it does not really adequately address the central issue. That is that the overwhelming majority of research projects are led by nonIndigenous researchers and that is likely to continue for a very long time in the future – probably as far ahead as anyone can see. In similar circumstances, the Canadian equivalent of NHMRC, the CIHR adopted a bold, innovative and effective approach. Firstly, it set aside a fixed proportion of research funds for Indigenous research. In the first phase, their funds were largely directed towards capacity building funding agreements with universities and other organisations to produce a cadre of indigenous researchers and masters and doctorate level. In the second phase, the funds were directed towards selected high priority topics, with knowledge translation a significant factor in the assessment process. The approach being pursued in Australia is much more traditional and in effect simply tweaks the processes for researchers in general. The effect is that building an Indigenous led capacity to compete effectively with much larger and long established mainstream research organisations will take a very long time, if it ever happens. Further, it means that in all likelihood, most Indigenous researchers for the foreseeable future, will be junior researchers on projects led by nonIndigenous researchers. That is not only an issue in its own right, but it means that the direction of research itself, notwithstanding good intentions, will not necessarily reflect the priorities, values and world views of Indigenous people. An alternative approach, consistent with the draft objectives and priorities of Road Map 3, would be to have a clear idea of the results to be achieved in say, 10 years time and rather than having the results determined by the process (as would be the case if Road Map 3 is implemented as is), would be to have processes designed to achieve the desired outcomes. So possible outcomes might be, for example to end up with a national network of Indigenous led research centres on priority topics in 10 years time, using say, ~5% of total NHMRC funds. The national network would need to cover all jurisdictions and population groups, and might for example, cover topics such as mental health and emotional and social well being; health, culture and racism; chronic disease; mothers and babies; youth; ageing and disability etc, and the kind of topics listed in 4.3. Each centre would need to address the capacity building processes in 4.1 and to have the community engagement processes outlined in 4.2 – and each would have to have explicit defined benefits to Indigenous people and communities as well as building the capacity for indigenous led research. The national network would have to operate as a network, sharing experience and findings on particular topics across the network and interacting closely with Indigenous organisations, policy makers and service providers in formal structured, defined ways. The essential difference would be in constraining the bid driven processes so that they would support the objectives of creating the a limited number of Indigenous led research centres on the key topics, although of course it would still be open to researchers, both Indigenous and nonIndigenous, to access the general pool of funds in a competitive way.

Page reviewed: 31 July, 2018