Guy Cameron

PhD, Bbiomedsci(hons), Bmedsci

Aboriginal health research in the Hunter region, community panel

March 31, 2023

The Community Panel is to ensure that Aboriginal people have a say in what is being researched, by who, how, what for, where and when in their Community. The Community Panel will be involved in the decision making and administering of these grants.

This will ensure that Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Community members are respected for their knowledge and that authority over health research is held by the Communities themselves. It is anticipated that the Community Panel will do things such as:
  • Work with Community to identify Community Health Research priorities to then partner with research institutes and other organisations to conduct research.
  • Review research applications from external researchers and provide feedback and guidance on research approaches and methodology.
  • Review research applications from external researchers and decide (in consultation with Community) if the Community should support and be involved in the research and how.
  • Oversee and guide the research teams - hold them accountable to ethical research standards. The Panel will be established to:
  • Include a large number of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people with specific experience who can be drawn on at relevant times to contribute their knowledge and experience to relevant research.
  • Involve Panel members a few times per year in areas of their expertise and permanent Panel members once or twice a month.
  • Be remunerated for their involvement and expertise.
  • Be supported to perform their role with training, resources and administrative support.
Context: Development of an Aboriginal Health Research Strategy within the Hunter, New England and Central Coast Regions

In 2021 a group of Aboriginal leaders in the Hunter, New England and Central Coast regions agreed to collaborate to change the way that Health Research about Aboriginal people is conducted within the regions. A working group was formed to guide this work, and the development of an Aboriginal Health Research Strategy for the Hunter, New England and Central Coast Regions.

The Working Group is Indigenous-led and governed. The group consists only of Aboriginal representatives from Awabakal Aboriginal Medical Service, Yerin Eleanor Duncan Aboriginal Health Services, the University of Newcastle, Hunter Medical Research Institute, and Hunter New England Health District.

The Institute of Collaborative Race Research (ICRR 2021) was commissioned by the Working Group and the University of Newcastle to guide the development of a Strategy for the region. The study, From Strength to Sovereignty, undertaken by Institute for Collaborative Race Research involved community consultation and desk-based research. This has provided guidance for the Working Group regarding challenges felt within the regions’ Aboriginal Communities and Community Organisations as well as the values that Aboriginal people would like to see reflected in a strategy going forward.

“Over the past several decades, research investments in Indigenous health have moved from silence to a focus on Indigenous peoples as subjects of research. In more recent years, deficit based descriptive accounts of Indigenous sickness have in turn been challenged by the ‘strength-based’ approach.

This approach rightly focuses on the capacity of Indigenous communities to achieve better health. While these moves from silence to strength are significant, the consultations undertaken in the Hunter, Central Coast and New England regions strongly suggest that it is time for a new Indigenous health research paradigm to emerge - one that shifts from strength to sovereignty.” From Strength to Sovereignty, Institute for Collaborative Race Research (2021).

As such the Indigenous Health Research Strategy for the Hunter, New England and Central Coast Regions aims to provide a coordinated approach to health research and give Aboriginal people ownership of health research within the regions. This will ensure that health benefits promised by researchers are implemented back into our communities, leading to better health outcomes. This way our mob will have a say on who, what and where research is conducted, how we use and store it. This Strategy is currently under development and expected to be released in early 2023.


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