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The National statement, updated by the National Health and Medical Research Council in 2018, functions as the overarching ethical guidelines for all research involving humans. It is designed to be used by:
The National Statement is grounded in four main principles – Respect, Integrity and Research Merit, Justice and Beneficence – which are applied to different research methods or fields, and to specific participants. Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples are one group of specific participants recognised in this document.
The NHMRC's Ethical conduct in research with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples and communities: Guidelines for researchers and stakeholders (2018) replaces the previous Values and ethics: Guidelines for ethical conduct in Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander health research (2003) and Guidelines on ethical matters in Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander health research (1991). Primarily created for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander community members and organisations, this updated edition provides clear guidelines for researchers, communities, human research ethics committees and other stakeholders on conducting ethical research involving Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples.
The guidelines are linked to the National statement, with references to the relevant sections within the document. They are not meant to be a compliance checklist, but to offer a framework of important cultural values common to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities for researchers to address throughout the design and implementation of their research work.
Based on the need for trust, recognition and values, the guidelines describe six principles important to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities. These core values, which have been identified through a national consultation process including workshops with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people, are:
Keeping research on track II (2018), which updates the earlier Keeping research on track (2005), provides advice on how the values and principles outlined in Ethical conduct in research with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples and communities can be put into practice in research. Created specifically for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander community members and organisations, it primarily aims to empower Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people to get the most out of research projects, to know their rights and responsibilities and a checklist of what some important considerations may be.
In addition to the six principles above, it outlines the research process in eight steps and describes what the rights and the responsibilities of the researcher and the community are, and which questions the community can ask from the researcher. The eight steps in the research process are described as:
The Lowitja Institute, in partnership with the Australian Institute of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Studies, carried out an evaluation of Values and ethics and Keeping research on track for the NHMRC in 2015.