Researchers seek Government funding for ethical Aboriginal-led research

Apr 18, 2024

The research sector has been coming out in force to endorse the recently launched Victorian Health, Medical and Wellbeing Research Accord, led by VACCHO.

Since marra ngarrgoo, marra goorri (the Woi-Wurrung name for the Accord) was launched last October, over thirty prestigious universities including University of Melbourne, research institutions and Aboriginal organisations have endorsed the Accord. Victoria lags behind the rest of Australia, being the only state or territory that doesn’t have a designated process to review the ethics of research involving Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people. Not only would the Accord change this, it would establish an Australian-first accreditation scheme to ensure that research institutions have the views and needs of Aboriginal people at the forefront of their research.

Nearly 150 people, including leading Aboriginal researchers, senior professors and the Association of Australian Medical Research Institutes, which is the peak body for all medical research across Australia, recently attended eight workshops to prepare for initiation of the Accord’s implementation.

Paul Stewart, Chief Executive of the Lowitja Institute and a member of the Accord’s Governance Group, said it’s been amazing to see the research sector become so engaged.
“People want this change to happen. For too long, Aboriginal people have been subjects of research rather than driving the research we want to see. Good research makes for better policies. We can’t close the gap without a good understanding of the issues, and we need Aboriginal people and perspectives at the core of that.”

Of 550 national research projects that investigated Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples’ health issues between 2010–2016, only 50 were led by Aboriginal and/ or Torres Strait Islander researchers.

The Accord has been endorsed by the Victorian Government, with Deputy Premier Ben Carroll and Health Minister Mary-Ann Thomas both speaking at its launch last year.

VACCHO is waiting to hear if the Government will commit funds in May’s budget to fund implementation of it, as Dr. Jill Gallagher AO, Chief Executive of VACCHO, explained.
“When the Deputy Premier launched the Accord, he said it shouldn’t have taken thirty years for it to happen. And he was right. But it means nothing if the Government doesn’t fund the words being put into action. We’ve got less than 20 days until the Budget is announced, and we need the Government to prioritise this or we risk the continuation of harmful research.”

Image: Paul Stewart, Chief Executive of the Lowitja Institute and Deputy Premier Ben Carroll at the Accord Launch.

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VACCHO is the peak body for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander health and wellbeing in Victoria – the only one of its kind – with 33 Aboriginal Community Controlled Organisations as Members. VACCHO Members support over 65,000 Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people in Victoria, and combined are the largest employers of Aboriginal people in the state.