The Centre of Clinical Research Excellence (CCRE) in Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Health was established in late 2003 through a major National Health and Medical Research Council (NHMRC) grant involving collaboration between the Aboriginal Health Council of South Australia (AHCSA), Flinders University, and Aboriginal Health Services. Our foundation research communities are the Aboriginal communities served by these Aboriginal Health Services in the Spencer Gulf / Eyre Peninsula region.

A number of collaborative research programs involving chronic illness management, self-management and coordinated care have been implemented in these communities and this work is the basis of the initial CCRE activities. Key objectives of the CCRE are to improve the health status of Indigenous people through conducting relevant and meaningful Aboriginal controlled health research, providing formal training for Indigenous health researchers and developing innovative approaches to health care that can be readily translated and applied to support communities. The inclusion, empowerment and engagement of Indigenous people in the process of managing community health represent tangible strategies for achieving more equitable health outcomes for Aboriginal people.

This paper outlines the CCRE operational rationale and presents early activities and outcomes across the three strategic areas of CCRE operations: research, education and training, and translation. Some critical reflections are offered on the progress and experience of the CCRE thus far. A common obstacle this CCRE has encountered is that the limited (especially staff) resources available to the Aboriginal Health Services with which we are collaborating make it difficult for them to engage with and progress the projects we are pursuing.