Working with Indigenous communities towards research that is relevant, effective and culturally respectful

Writing in the Journal about Indigenous health in 2011, Sir Michael Marmot suggested that the challenge was to conduct research, and to ultimately apply findings from that research, to enable Indigenous Australians to lead more flourishing lives that they would have reason to value. As committed Indigenous health researchers in Australia, we reflect Marmot’s ideal — to provide the answers to key questions relating to health that might enable Indigenous Australians to live the lives that they would choose to live.

As a group, we have over 120 collective years’ experience in Indigenous health research. Over this time, particularly in recent years as ethical guidelines have come into play, there have been many examples of research done well. However, as the pool of researchers is constantly replenished, we hold persisting concerns that some emerging researchers may not be well versed in the principles of best practice regarding research among Indigenous Australian populations. Implementing any research methodology among Indigenous Australian groups will work best when the following 10 principles are met. These principles are reflected in the many documents related to working and researching with Indigenous Australians; for example, the National Health and Medical Research Council (NHMRC) ethical guidelines for research among Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people. In this article, we set out these principles in one short, accessible document.