Ethics of indigenous health research explored in new guide

The rights, responsibilities and expectations of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples participating in or conducting human research are highlighted in a new guide released today by the National Health and Medical Research Council (NHMRC) at the Victorian Aboriginal Health Service in Melbourne.

Keeping research on track: a guide for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples about health research ethics shows how Indigenous communities can get the most out of health research.

Chair of the NHMRC's Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Health Forum, Professor Ian Anderson, said the guide was developed in partnership with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities--to help them make informed decisions about participating and becoming more involved in the health research journey.

"Unfortunately, Indigenous communities have often felt left out of the research that was supposed to improve their health and wellbeing," Professor Anderson said.

"This guide is a first step to change that--and make communities more aware of their rights and how they can work with researchers from the start of the journey to help make the results work for them."

"A good example of such a partnership is a remote Aboriginal community which recently participated in a health research project that compared the health of children before and after they were treated for scabies.

"Some community members trained as researchers on the project--and the partnership helped researchers understand Aboriginal structures and family values.

"As a result, the community received home repairs, improved sewerage and additional health services. The health of the children improved because the community had a better understanding of how to prevent the spread of infectious diseases--and this flowed into other communities through strong cultural links.

"Research is a part of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander traditions. It's important for Indigenous communities to negotiate with researchers right from the start about the what, why, how and who of the project."

Keeping Research on Track has been published with a companion guide--Values and Ethics: Guidelines for Ethical Conduct in Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Health Research.

The two publications complement increased Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander involvement in the work of the NHMRC, and an increased commitment by the Council to Indigenous health.

Keeping research on track: a guide for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples about health research ethics is available on the NHMRC website at: www.nhmrc.gov.au/publications/index.htm

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Last reviewed: By John M. Grohol, Psy.D. on 21 Feb 2009
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