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ResourcesHuman Research EthicsThe vulnerable object of Indigenous research ethics (Papers: Emma Kowal 2014)

Australasian Human Research Ethics Consultancy Services Pty Ltd (AHRECS)

The vulnerable object of Indigenous research ethics (Papers: Emma Kowal 2014)


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Excerpt: The origin story of Indigenous health research ethics, like many tales of regulation, begins in a meeting room. In this case it was the Araluen Centre, Alice Springs in 1986, the site of the first conference on Aboriginal health organized by the National Health and Medical Research Council (NHMRC) and the newly established Menzies School of Health Research. At that point, research ethics review was still in its institutional infancy. Although the first Statement on Human Experimentation was published by the NHMRC in the mid-1960s, it was not until 1973 that ethics committees were first mentioned, at which time there were few in existence. Only in 1985 did the NHMRC require that all human research be approved by an ethics committee. The final day of that Alice Springs conference was famously ‘taken over’ by Aboriginal people who tabled a list of 87 recommendations, foremost among them the need for separate ethical guidelines for Indigenous health research (Humphery 2002). The first guidelines followed in 1991, followed by the most recent version in 2003 (which is currently under review). Those events in the mid-1980s set the pattern for a separate system of Indigenous health research running parallel to mainstream research. Researchers working in Indigenous health tend to do it exclusively from the start of their career. They develop expertise in the language and processes of the field. Those outside the established groups of Indigenous health researchers are likely to intentionally exclude Indigenous research participants to avoid being drawn in to the Indigenous- specific process of NHMRC grant review.

Kowal Emma (2014) The vulnerable object of Indigenous research ethics. The Australian Journal of Anthropology 25 (3): 390-392

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