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The practice of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander health research has been widely questioned, criticised and debated. Researchers need to build cultural values and approaches into their processes and ensure their research is informed by and implemented in the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities with whom they work. To facilitate this process, the Lowitja Institute brings together researchers with the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander health sector, community members, government and others to identify areas where targeted research may be able to make a real difference.
The Lowitja Institute’s way of developing research is very different from traditional approaches. All of the research we support is focused on priorities identified by Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people and communities, with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people involved from the earliest planning stages right through to the end of the research itself. We call this ‘ground-up’ research methodology the Facilitated Development Approach (FDA). Our predecessor, the Cooperative Research Centre for Aboriginal Health (CRCAH) developed the FDA to prioritise and develop new research projects within its strategic research programs.
The CRC for Aboriginal and Tropical Health (CRCATH, 1997–2003), carried out a significant body of work, which helped to consolidate and articulate what had been a long history of reforms to improve the usefulness of research to Aboriginal people, known as the Indigenous Research Reform Agenda (IRRA). The IRRA encompasses a broad platform of activity, which includes Indigenous health reform. The issues listed below were noted by Humphrey (2001) as critical to the development of Indigenous health reform, and were recognised by the CRCAH as significant to the broader Indigenous Research Reform Agenda.