Objective: This paper explores both Indigenous and non-Indigenous critiques of ‘Western’ research frameworks in an Aboriginal health context. It also discusses the ‘reform’ of Aboriginal health research practices since the 1980s, particularly in relation to the development of ethical guidelines.

Method: The text is based on both archival research and a critical review of secondary literature.

Conclusions and Implications: It is argued here that efforts to reform the practices of mainstream Indigenous health research since the 1980s have oscillated between taking concrete steps towards actually changing research practice and placing too great a reliance on written guidelines and positive rhetoric. In offering this analysis, the paper argues for a more challenging conception of reforming mainstream research, involving an emphasis on shifts in institutional arrangements as well local research practices.