Concord Hospital Concord Hospital
The Concord Research Office

Aboriginal Research


Research involving Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander People

There are two recognised Indigenous Peoples in Australia: Aboriginal Peoples and Torres Strait Islander Peoples (hereafter Aboriginal Peoples). Six Core Values underpin the ethical conduct of research that involves (i.e., non-incidental involvement) Aboriginal Peoples:

  • Reciprocity
  • Respect
  • Equality
  • Responsibility
  • Survival and protection
  • Spirit and integrity

In addition to the Six Core Values, researchers should be aware of the great diversity that exists across the many Aboriginal cultures and societies. They should consider the cultural and local-language protocols of the particular communities or groups involved in their research.

In accordance with Chapter 4.7 of The National Statement on Ethical Conduct in Human Research (2007, and as updated) where health research involves Aboriginal Peoples, researchers must consult Ethical conduct in research with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Peoples and communities: Guidelines for researchers and stakeholdersThe research must also be approved by a Human Research Ethics Committee (HREC) that specialises in reviewing research with Aboriginal Peoples.

In NSW, this is the Aboriginal Health and Medical Research Council (AHMRC) HREC. AHMRC assists researchers in designing meaningful, ethical, and culturally appropriate projects that minimise harm and mitigate risks for Aboriginal Communities. AHMRC approval is required when any of the following is true:

  • The experience of Aboriginal people is an explicit focus of all or part of the research
  • Data collection is explicitly directed at Aboriginal peoples
  • Aboriginal peoples, as a group, are to be examined in the results, e.g., if it is intended to use Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander status in any presentation or publication.
  • The information has an impact on one or more Aboriginal communities
  • Aboriginal health funds are a source of funding.
  • The Aboriginal experience of the medical condition being studied is known, or is likely, to be different from the overall population
  • There are Aboriginal people who use the services being studied in distinctive ways, or who have distinctive barriers that limit their access to the services
  • Aboriginal people are known, or likely, to be significantly over-represented in the target group (compared to the 3.4% of total NSW population) and/or it is proposed to separately identify data relating to Aboriginal people at any stage in the project. (Note If Aboriginal and/or Torres Strait Islander status/data is collected for internal use only, and this will not be published, AHMRC Ethics approval is not needed.)

If research will be conducted within a NSW Public Health Organisation, AHMRC HREC approval is required in addition to (not in place of) approval from a NSW Health HREC.

Where AHMRC HREC approval is required it must be obtained before an ethics application is submitted to the SLHD HREC (Concord or RPAH Zones). The approval letter should be submitted with the application in REGIS.

Other useful guidance and practical steps can be found in:
Keeping Research on Track II and 

Guidelines for Ethical Research in Australian Indigenous Studies (Australian Institute of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Studies 2012).