Nulungu Journal Articles

Ethics guidelines use and Indigenous governance and participation in Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander health research: a national survey



To assess the use of NHMRC Indigenous research guidelines by Australian researchers and the degree of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander governance and participation in Indigenous health research.

Design, setting, participants

Cross-sectional survey of people engaged in Indigenous health research in Australia, comprising respondents to an open invitation (social media posts in general and Indigenous health research networks) and authors of primary Indigenous health research publications (2015–2019) directly invited by email.

Main outcome measures

Reported use of NHMRC guidelines for Indigenous research; reported Indigenous governance and participation in Indigenous health research.


Of 329 people who commenced the survey, 247 people (75%) provided responses to all questions, including 61 Indigenous researchers (25%) and 195 women (79%). The NHMRC guidelines were used “all the time” by 206 respondents (83%). Most respondents (205 of 247, 83%) reported that their research teams included Indigenous people, 139 reported dedicated Indigenous advisory boards (56%), 91 reported designated seats for Indigenous representatives on ethics committees (37%), and 43 reported Indigenous health research ethics committees (17%); each proportion was larger for respondents working in Indigenous community-controlled organisations than for those working elsewhere. More than half the respondents reported meaningful Indigenous participation during five of six research phases; the exception was data analysis (reported as apparent “none” or “some of the time” by 143 participants, 58%).


Indigenous health research in Australia is largely informed by non-Indigenous world views, led by non-Indigenous people, and undertaken in non-Indigenous organisations. Re-orientation and investment are needed to give control of the framing, design, and conduct of Indigenous health research to Indigenous people.


Indigenous health, Ethics, Research, Surveys and questionnaires

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