Research Division

Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Involvement in the Research

When the views and cultural, values, beliefs and practices of researchers and participants differ there is potential for miscommunication, misunderstanding and breach of cultural protocols. For this reason it is strongly recommended that Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander research always has significant Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander input into the research design and the processes of the research project.

Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander research that does not include substantial Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander research and/or governance involvement would need to provide a valid explanation for the absence in the project’s ethics application. As a caution it needs to be noted that Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander inclusion does not negate the responsibilities of the non-Indigenous researchers to be culturally competent and responsible for their own cultural/protocol learnings. Researchers cannot abrogate responsibility for ensuring their own cultural competence or for producing culturally responsible and culturally sensitive and safe research by the mere inclusion of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people in the research team.

Common ways that Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander involvement is demonstrated are listed below. Good ethical research practice may include a number of these.

When planning the study you must ensure that the roles and responsibilities of the members of the research team are appropriate and defined, for example, ensure that:

  • Clearly defined responsibilities and level of involvement of all parties is documented and signed off by all parties;
  • The Chief Investigator, Cultural Broker, Cultural Mentor or Reference group are consulted about relevant world views, cultural values, beliefs and protocols in the development of the research proposal;
  • There is appropriate payment and/or workload recognition and acknowledgement in reports, presentations and publications of those involved in the project; and,
  • Regular meetings are scheduled, held, and minuted.

Community Engagement

For community engagement projects, always discuss your community engagement plans with the Riawunna Centre for Aboriginal Education. Riawunna staff can provide advice to researchers on how community relationships might be developed and the most appropriate organisational contacts.

Note: It is not the role of Riawunna staff to broker relationships with community groups or organisations on behalf of researchers or those undertaking community engagement projects. Initiation and building of relationships must always remain the responsibility of those undertaking the community engagement or research project.

Indigenous Data Sovereignty

Indigenous data sovereignty, in keeping with the six values, requires that data related to Indigenous peoples should be subject to the laws/governance of those peoples. Indigenous data sovereignty:

  • Asserts Indigenous rights and interests in relation to data
  • Ensures Indigenous data are safeguarded and protected
  • Ensures quality/integrity of Indigenous data and collection
  • Advocates for Indigenous involvement in governance of data repositories
  • Asserts Indigenous rights in relation to decisions about collection of, and access to, Indigenous data

Indigenous data sovereignty applies to projects that use data relating to and about Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people/s. When using secondary data in research it is essential that Indigenous data sovereignty is protected by maintaining the consent requirements and restrictions placed on the data when it was originally collected.

More information about Indigenous data sovereignty in Australia, including key principles, can be found on the Maiam nayri Wingara Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Data Sovereignty Collective website.