Context: Australian Aboriginal communities in urban, rural and remote areas are continuing to suffer high rates of perinatal mortality and morbidity that will impact on the future health of the community. It has been well documented that Aboriginal women have extreme distrust of mainstream pregnancy-related health care and suggested that late entry into antenatal care is as high as 50% in the Aboriginal population. Although medical and midwifery staff have long discussed strategies to improve uptake of antenatal health care for Aboriginal women, researchers in many areas have found the recruitment of Aboriginal people into scientific studies almost impossible.

This article seeks to share the strategies that have been developed over a period of time by the authors that have proved useful for recruitment and retention into research. It is anticipated that these strategies would also apply for health practitioners in maintaining their patients for clinical care management.

Issue: Although each research location (regional, rural and remote) has had to spend time determining what approach is best for meeting the research outcomes, many of these suggestions become applicable to clinicians seeking to develop better connections with Aboriginal patients in their clinics. With the management of ongoing chronic health conditions for Aboriginal people a priority in ‘Closing the Gap’, a number of these suggestions could easily be implemented by clinicians. Remembering that each community has specific needs that must be addressed, priorities for assistance for that community will be easily identifiable after community consultation (eg transport, or ability to access medical testing). Opportunities for the use of new social media (eg Facebook) as communication tools for researchers and clinicians will have increasing applicability as further software updates are created.

Lessons learnt: With open and trusting dialogues between researchers, clinicians and Aboriginal communities, we can go a long way towards understanding the needs of individual communities and working in partnerships to close the gap.