Objective: This study was conducted to better understand the characteristics of current and past researchers in Indigenous health in Australia and the factors that may influence decisions about working in this field.
Methods: A self-administered survey by e-mail or post to all individuals listed as an author on a published paper or who completed a PhD or masters research degree in the field of Indigenous health between 1995 and 2004.
Results: We identified 472 papers and 151 theses; from these, 1,067 authors were identified. Completed questionnaires were returned by 373 authors (35%), of whom 32 (9%) identified as Aboriginal and/or Torres Strait Islander. The majority (80%) of respondents were active in research but only 38% considered Indigenous health to be their primary area of research. The most important attractive factor about Indigenous health research (IHR) selected by respondents was “important area/national priority” (35%) and the most unattractive factor was “politics” (30%). There was considerable ambivalence about recommending a career in IHR to an early career researcher. When asked what was required to attract researchers into IHR, respondents cited the need for improved institutional support, mentoring, long-term funding and sustainable career pathways.
Conclusions and Implications: This study contributes to a greater understanding of Australia’s research workforce in Indigenous health. It provides evidence of a strongly perceived need for institutional reform that supports Indigenous health research, for sustainable approaches to funding, and for mentoring initiatives for early career researchers.
Key words: Research personnel; Australia; Aborigines, Australia; mentors.