Lowitja Institute traces its roots back more than two decades. It includes the pioneering work of three Cooperative Research Centres (CRC), the CRC for Aboriginal and Tropical Health, the CRC for Aboriginal Health, and the CRC for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Health. In August 2017, we published a brief history of the work and achievements since 1997 called ‘Changing the Narrative in Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Health Research: Four Cooperative Research Centres and the Lowitja Institute: The story so far‘.
The CRC for Aboriginal and Tropical Health (CRCATH, 1997–2003) opened in Darwin in 1997 with six core partners, including two Aboriginal health services. The chair was Dr Lowitja O’Donoghue, our current Patron. The CRCATH brought together researchers and Aboriginal community organisations for research focused on five priority areas: Indigenous education; health resources and service delivery; public health; communication and information; and biomedical.
The CRC for Aboriginal Health (CRCAH, 2003–2009) was also based in Darwin. Under the leadership of its Chair Ms Pat Anderson, the CRCAH brought together 12 core partners and six associate partners from research institutions, government agencies and Aboriginal Health Services around Australia. The CRCAH made the decision to integrate its research with capacity development and research transfer activities to ensure that outcomes had a practical impact in Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities. It developed five research programs: Chronic conditions; Comprehensive primary health care, health systems and workforce; healthy skin; Social and emotional wellbeing; and Social determinants of health.
The successful track record of the two previous CRCs saw the Commonwealth approve the 2009 rebid for a third CRC. The CRC for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Health (CRCATSIH, 2010–2014) was hosted by Lowitja Institute, which has Dr O’Donoghue as its Patron and Ms Pat Anderson AO as Chair of its Board. Operating out of the Institute’s Melbourne head office, the CRCATSIH’s focus was on applying the research that was developed in the previous CRCs, through an emphasis on knowledge exchange and translation into practice. Three programs were developed: Healthy Start, Healthy Life; Healthy Communities and Settings; and Enabling Policy and Systems.
The Lowitja Institute Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Health CRC (Lowitja Institute CRC, 2014–2019) commenced operations on 1 July 2014, hosted by Lowitja Institute. Our vision is to achieve equity in health outcomes for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples and we will work towards this vision through the development of robust research programs in three areas: Community capability and the social determinants of health Needs and opportunities for a workforce to address Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander health Health policy and systems.
The National Institute for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Health Research Limited (NIATSIHR Ltd) is a limited liability company trading as Lowitja Institute. The NIATSIHR is registered as a not-for-profit company limited by guarantee and is structured as a public benevolent institution. Lowitja Institute is independent of government and other centres of health and policy administration. It has an independent Board of which all members are Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander people.
At a Special General Meeting on 16 June 2020, Lowitja Institute’s constitution was changed to significantly expand its membership to include:
Full Member Organisations – Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander organisations committed to the purpose and values of Lowitja Institute, with voting rights
Associate Organisations – non-Indigenous organisations committed to the purpose and values of Lowitja Institute, no voting rights
Lowitja Institute Scholars (Alumni) – Lowitja Institute Scholarship recipients, past and present Alumni, no voting rights. This was further expanded in September 2021 to include Chief Investigators and/or team members of research funded by a Lowitja Institute grant.
This change in the constitution also resulted in the establishment of the Lowitja Institute Members Community.
On 22 June 2022, the Board resolved to create a new category of membership comprising Aboriginal and/or Torres Strait Islander individuals who demonstrate support for, and contribute to, the purpose and values of the Institute and who do not satisfy the eligibility criteria for admission as Lowitja Institute Scholars (Alumni) members, no voting rights.