11 Nov 2020
Creating meaningful partnerships with Aboriginal communities
This week is NAIDOC Week - a celebration across Australia celebrating the history, culture and achievements of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples.
The Doherty Institute would like to recognise the celebration by highlighting some of the important work we are doing in Indigenous health.
Before even starting research projects, Doherty Institute researchers embrace fundamental principles to guide their work with Indigenous communities.
Respected Wurundjeri elder, Aunty Joy Murphy Wandin AO, posed a challenge at the opening of the Doherty Institute in 2014: “What will this Institute do to improve the health of Aboriginal Australians?”
This challenge set the scene so that future projects would be guided by principles that would give the research the best chance of contributing to the body of knowledge and translating into clear benefits for Aboriginal Australians.
One of the most important principles is for researchers and healthcare workers across the Doherty Institute to collaborate with Aboriginal communities.
Research fellow, University of Melbourne Dr Simon Graham, says its essential to collaborate with Aboriginal communities to ensure the design and application of research findings have the best chance of success.
“A mistake many research projects make is to have a group of non-Aboriginal academics as investigators and then a sub-committee of Aboriginal people to provide advice,” says Dr Graham.
“For success, it is best to follow the approach of ‘nothing about us, without us’ and have Aboriginal people as senior investigators.
“Supporting the mentorship of Aboriginal trainees on research projects is also extremely important to further develop and enhance their research skills.”
Doherty Institute staff are also guided by the principle to respect the values, history, culture, language, diversity, and context of the communities with which they work.
Continuous, clear communication and regular visits to communities is also essential.
“Projects must conduct regular community visits to ensure meaningful and respectful time is dedicated towards hearing the needs of communities related to the projects,” says Dr Graham.
The Doherty Institute has committed to be transparent and accountable for the impact of its work and maintains the highest ethical standards, adhering to the guidelines of the Lowitja Institute and the National Health and Medical Research Council.
Each year, the Doherty Institute hosts an Indigenous Health forum titled From Bush to Bench, featuring speakers with strong links to various communities. Previous speakers have included community-based researchers from Galiwin’ku and Jonathan Lindsay-Tjapaltjarri Hermawan, Strategic Advisor and Strong Men and Boys Program Manager for Red Dust Role Models.
This article was first published in the Celebrating five years of the Doherty Institute Impact Report.