Despite the extensive consideration the notion of informed consent has heralded in recent decades, the unique considerations pertaining to the giving of informed consent by and on behalf of Indigenous Australians have not been comprehensively explored; to the contrary, these issues have been scarcely considered in the literature to date. This deficit is concerning, given that a fundamental premise of the doctrine of informed consent is that of individual autonomy, which, while privileged as a core value of non-Indigenous Australian culture, is displaced in Indigenous cultures by the honouring of the family unit and community group, rather than the individual, as being at the core of important decision-making processes relating to the person.

To address the hiatus in the bioethical literature on issues relating to informed consent for Aboriginal peoples, the following article provides findings from a two-year research project, funded by Australia’s National Health and Medical Research Council (NHMRC), conducted in the Northern Territory. The findings, situated in the context of the literature on cultural safety, highlight the difference between the Aboriginal and biomedical perspectives on informed consent.