Popular TTRA Webinars Highlight Essential Elements of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Health Research

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09 March 2023

MTPConnect’s webinar series focusing on Indigenous health research is proving popular with the sector including researchers in the diabetes and cardiovascular disease area, those interested in how to collaborate with Indigenous communities for research projects, and other health professionals, administrators, and policy makers.

The webinars coincide with the third funding round of the Targeted Translation Research Accelerator (TTRA) program’s Research Projects which is supporting diabetes and cardiovascular disease projects that address Indigenous-specific priority areas.

Recently, the TTRA team held the second webinar, ‘Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander health research – Ethics and Reciprocity’, covering the essential elements of ethical conduct when developing health research projects that involve Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people.

Sharing their extensive experience and knowledge in the field were speakers Dr Summer May Finlay, Co-Chair of the Aboriginal Health and Medical Research Council of NSW Ethics Committee (AH&MRC NSW EC) and Professor Jenni Judd, Professorial Research Fellow, Central Queensland University.

The importance of cultural safety, reciprocity and empowerment in Indigenous research

During the session, Dr Finlay and Professor Judd explored researchers’ ethical obligations including when to submit to an Aboriginal Human Research Ethics Committee, the importance of cultural safety in research design and governance, the importance of reciprocity, community benefit, and completing the loop by providing feedback from research to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people who were involved.

Both speakers emphasised the importance of establishing meaningful community engagement and empowering Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people in the research through their inclusion and substantial involvement at all stages of research, including leadership and co-design, to generate impactful outcomes to benefit Indigenous peoples and communities.

Core value of ‘Spirit and Integrity’

Dr Finlay spoke about values as outlined in the NHMRC’s ‘Ethical conduct in research with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Peoples and communities’ (2018) – a supporting guideline for the National Statement on Ethical Conduct in Human Research (2018) – which has six core values: Spirit and Integrity, Cultural Continuity, Equity, Reciprocity, Respect and Responsibility.

She explained and quoted from the supporting guideline, listed in the paragraph above, that ‘Spirit and Integrity’ is the core value that connects the other five values together. Spirit is about the connection and continuity between Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Peoples’ past, current and future generations. Integrity is about the respectful and honourable behaviours that hold Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander values and cultures together.

Dr Finlay is a Yorta Yorta woman who grew up on Awabakal/Worimi country (West Lake Macquarie) and is a passionate advocate for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people, working in public health across communications research and policy. She has worked for a range of organisations in the Aboriginal Community Controlled Health, not-for profit, university, and for-profit sectors. She is currently a Senior Lecturer at the University of Wollongong, Co-Chair of the AH&MRC of NSW Ethics Committee, Co-Chair of the World Federation of Public Health Associations Indigenous Working Group, and Deputy Chair of Thirrili, Australia’s only Indigenous suicide postvention organisation.

What reciprocity means for Indigenous health research

Reciprocity is Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Peoples’ way of shared responsibility and obligation based on their kinship networks. This process keeps Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Peoples’ ways of living and family relationships strong. Reciprocity recognises all partners’ contributions and ensures the benefits from research outcomes are equitable and of value for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people and communities.

Professor Jenni Judd has lived and worked in the Public Sector in Education and Health in the Northern Territory and Queensland for the past 30 years and has received over $5.9M in grants for Indigenous health research. She holds an Adjunct Professorial Research Fellow position at James Cook University and has been at Central Queensland University as a Professorial Research Fellow with the Graduate Research School and First Nations Academy in Supervision. Currently, she is Chief Investigator of an NHMRC Commissioning Evaluation in Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Health and Wellbeing Programs and as a Technical Writer has prepared an ethics document for public consultation. She is also involved in supporting completion and supervision of Higher Degree Research students, including several First Nations scholars.

Her interest in ethics with Indigenous projects and in particular, reciprocity, has been ongoing with specific emphasis on self-determination and the importance of working with First Nations peoples in this process.

Professor Judd spoke about the meaning of reciprocity, giving practical examples including researchers holding workshops to deliver the results of research to communities involved, ensuring that peoples and communities receive their information back so that they can use it to improve their circumstances and issues, offers of training, skills development and education (capability development and working with First Nations peoples to make it clear who is collecting the knowledge, what people understand the research to be), and the need for researchers to identify unintended consequences.

TTRA Webinar Series providing valuable learnings

Following positive and appreciative feedback, it appears this TTRA Indigenous health research webinar series is providing the sector with valuable learnings on key elements of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander health research. This series is intended for anyone with a broad interest in Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander health research but may also provide potential applicants to TTRA Research Projects Round 3 with key considerations when building their projects and teams.

The first webinar in the series was held in November 2022 and focused on ‘Principles of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander health research and engaging meaningfully with community.’ You can watch the recording of the webinar (no. 142) and the second webinar (no. 147) in the series here or listen to the episodes on the MTPConnect Podcast.

The next webinar ‘Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Health Research – Implementation Science’ will be held on 15 March 2023. Find out more and register here.

A further webinar on ‘Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Health Research – Data Sovereignty’ is to be confirmed.

TTRA Round 3 Open for Applications

TTRA’s third funding round for research projects is now open for applications and closes on Friday 28 April 2023 at 4:00pm AEST. Further information about the application process, project eligibility and selection criteria can be found here.

View all Webinars