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A review and analysis of progress in building the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander health researcher workforce since 2000

The project aims to identify changes in the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander health research workforce, since 2000. Investigations will chart current educational and career-pathway models and initiatives; outline how research training can be more responsive, enriching and affirming of and for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander health researchers and communities; and explore new ways to increase numbers of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander health researchers.

Professor Shaun Ewen will be the Project Lead and has a strong background in academic leadership, health education and practice, and workforce development. Professor Cindy Shannon will ensure the project is deeply engaged with community controlled health sector perspectives, drawing upon her decades of experience in workforce training in this sector. Professor Margaret Kelaher will bring her extensive expertise on health policy to the analytic activities of the project. Post-Doctoral Fellow Tess Ryan and Research Fellow Chris Platania-Phung will undertake the day-to-day project management.

A strength of the proposed project is to significantly address research gaps by conducting a comprehensive review foregrounding ‘whole of system’ analysis of the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander health researcher workforce and learn first-hand from current and future Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander health researchers via in-depth interviews and case studies.


Phase 1 – Project reference group: A project reference group (PRG) will be convened which will include key experts and representatives from agencies most likely to adopt project findings into policy and implementation.

Phase 2 – Literature and document review: A review of the international literature will be conducted to ensure that the project is based on the most up-to-date research and all projects and frameworks related to health research capability. The review will be accompanied by a desktop search and analysis of documentation on programs and policy frameworks, with charting of research education and career pathways.

Phase 3 – Measuring research workforce structures and progress: Using information gathered from Phase 2, establish the number of researchers trained or in training, their field(s) of health research, and where they were trained, and at a systemic level, identify research education structures, partnerships and mechanisms associated with educational and workforce success.

Phase 4 – Interviews: Forty interviews will be conducted with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander researchers and students enrolled in a Higher Research Degree (PhD, Masters), to investigate experiences in relation to formal and informal research training, and the diversity of views on how to further advance the health researcher workforce. 

Phase 5 – Case studies: Up to six case studies of a cross-section of promising and innovative health research training programs in Australia.

Phase 6 – Knowledge Exchange: Forum and roundtable to triangulate findings and feedback from phases 2–5. The overall project is expected to be completed by October 2018.

Expected outcomes

The main outcome of the project will be a national knowledge base on the characteristics and experiences of research training infrastructure that is connected to the further growth and success of the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander health researcher workforce. A final report will be provided with recommendations. 

Created: 25 September 2017 - Updated: 05 October 2018