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Colin Thomson AM

Colin Thomson AM

Former Professor of Health Law and Ethics at the University of Wollongong


Colin was professor at the University of Wollongong and Academic Leader for Health Law and Ethics in the Graduate School of Medicine. He served as a member of the Medical Research Ethics Committee of the NHMRC (1987-91), and the member with expertise in law of Australian Health Ethics Committee, a principal committee of the NHMRC (1997-2002). He was the NHMRC consultant in health ethics (2002-06) and was Chair of the Australian Health Ethics Committee from 2006-09 and was closely involved in the drafting of the National Statement on Ethics Conduct in Human Research (2007). He is an inaugural member of the NHMRC’s Harmonisation of Multi-Centre Ethical Review assessment team. He has served as Vice President of the Australasian Bioethics Association, and Chair and Executive Officer of the Australian and New Zealand Institute of Health, Law and Ethics.

He has been a member (and chair of four) of the human research ethics committees at the Australian National University, the Australian Capital Territory Board of Health, the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare, the University of Wollongong, CSIRO, the Department of Health (Commonwealth) and the Departments of Defence and Veterans Affairs. He currently chairs the social science human research ethics committee of the CSIRO.

Colin has worked as a consultant for the NHMRC, FaHCSIA, the Health Departments of New South Wales, Queensland and Victoria, the NSW Department of Community Services and the Cancer Council New South Wales. His work with the NHMRC included providing advice on the establishment of research ethics review system in Mauritius and designing and conducting a national human research ethics training program in Australia in 2004-05. Colin has provided advice and training to numerous human research ethics committees in Australia.

He has also chaired an independent external research misconduct inquiry for a leading Australian university.
In June 2018, he was made a Member of the Order of Australia for his service to medical research, particularly research ethics, education and professional associations.

In the 2018 Queen’s Birthday Honours List, Colin Thomson was recognised with an award of Member of the Order of Australia.


The design and implementation, for the NHMRC, of a national training program for members of human research ethics committees, a one-day program repeated more than 20 times throughout Australia.

The design and conduct of induction and further education workshops for HREC members for Charles Sturt University, the Cancer Council of NSW, UnitingCare, Australian Red Cross Blood Service and Queensland Health.

Presentations on national research and ethics governance structures, on research ethics committees, on genetics and human tissue research with representatives from University College, London and the Nuffield Council for Bioethics of the UK, to a training seminar for the Mauritius Research Council.

A study, for NSW Health, of the review of multi-centre research studies by key NSW HRECs.

The development of standards for the accreditation of “lead HRECs” for NSW Health.

The development of ethical guidelines for the conduct of research involving children in care, for NSW DoCS.

Reviews of the human and animal research ethics systems in Tasmania.

A report on developing best practice in human research ethics review for the Consultative Committee on Human Research Ethics of Victoria.

For the NHMRC’s National Approach. the conduct of assessments of institutional systems of human research ethics seeking certification.

A review of research governance procedures at Western Sydney Local Health District.

Chairing an independent external research misconduct inquiry for a major Australian university.



  • National human research ethics guidelines
  • National human research ethics governance systems and structures
  • Confidentiality and privacy in human research
  • Legal aspects of human research
  • Training in human research ethics of researchers and ethics committee members



Breen, K and Cordner Thomson, CJH, S Good Medical Practice: professionalism, ethics and law (4th Edition), Australian Medical Council (2016)

Articles in Refereed Journals

Pieper, Ian & Thomson, Colin J. H.  Beneficence as a principle in human research, Monash Bioethics review (2016) 34: 117-135

Pieper, Ian & Thomson Colin J.H. The value of respect in human research ethics: a conceptual analysis and a practical guide Monash Bioethics Review, ISSN 1321-2753, 12/14 Volume 32, Issue 3-4, p. 232

Pieper, Ian & Thomson Colin J.H., Justice in human research ethics Monash bioethics review, ISSN 1321-2753, 03/2013, Volume 31, Issue 1, p. 99

Pieper, Ian & Thomson Colin J.H. Contextualising merit and integrity within human research, Monash bioethics review, ISSN 1321-2753, 09/2011, Volume 29, Issue 4, p. 15.1

Xafis, V; Thomson, C; Braunack-Mayer, A J; Duszynski, K M; Gold, M S, Legal impediments to data linkage, Journal of law and medicine, ISSN 1320-159X, 12/2011, Volume 19, Issue 2, p. 300

Thomson, CJH Protecting health information privacy in research: what’s an ethics committee like you doing in a job like this?” (2006) 13 Journal of Law and Medicine 304 – 310

Monitoring medical research conduct: why, how and by whom? Internal Medicine Journal, 36 (2006) 69-71

Dodds, S & Thomson, C, Bioethics And Democracy: Competing Roles Of National Bioethics Organisations, Bioethics, 2006, 20(3), 326-338.

Thomson, CJH Protecting health information privacy in research: how much law do Australians need?, Medical Journal of Australia, 19 September 2005, Volume 183, No 6, p. 315

Thomson, CJH Research, Records and Access: What Interests Should Outweigh Privacy and Confidentiality Australian and New Zealand Journal of Law and Medicine 1993, 1(2), p 95.

Thomson, CJH Confidentiality and Privacy: Beyond Legal Duties, Medical Journal of Australia, 17 March 2003, Vol.178, No.6 p.252

Chapters in Books

Chapters 1 & 2, ‘Medical Research’, as a section of Medical Technology, Volume 20, Part 12 of Laws of Australia, North Ryde, LBC Information Services Limited (1994, 1996 & 2000)

The Right to Health, Chapter 5, Part 7: Life Health and Welfare, Volume 21: Human Rights of Laws of Australia, Law Book Company Limited, Sydney 1998 pp 87-115.

R Albury, C Thomson, S Dodds, Ethical Research: Issues for institutional ethics committees, Health: Ethics, Law & Policy Research Group, University of Wollongong, 1996

Thomson C. ‘Research Ethics Committees’. In: Ruth Chadwick, editor. Encyclopedia of Applied Ethics, Second Edition, volume 3. San Diego: Academic Press; 2012. pp. 786–796.

Israel M, Allen, G & Thomson, C (in press, 2014) Australian Research Ethics Governance: Plotting the Demise of the Adversarial Culture. In van den Hoonaard, W & Hamilton, A (eds) The Ethics Rupture: Exploring Alternatives to Formal Research-Ethics Review. Toronto: University of Toronto Press.

Commissioned Papers and Reports

Developing Best Practice in Human Research Ethics Review, Consultative Council for Human Research Ethics, Victoria, 2013

The Regulation of Health Information Privacy in Australia: A description and comment, 2004, NHMRC, ISBN 1864962941

Cervical Screening in New South Wales: Legal Issues, published by NSW Cervical Screening Program, Sydney, June 1998, ISBN 0-7313-8817-8

Ethical Research and Ethics Committee Review of Social and Behavioural Research Proposals, to the Department of Human Services and Health, July 1994 (with Rebecca Albury and Susan Dodds)