Victorian Aboriginal Research Accord Project (VARAP)

VARAP’s core purpose is to embed self-determination, regarding research that impacts Aboriginal Communities, within a draft Accord which is Aboriginal led, informed by Aboriginal literature and is culturally appropriate.

Introduction to VARAP: Narrative

Aboriginal communities in relationship with Country & Ancestors continue to hold knowledges and processes to address contemporary challenges. ​

AIATSIS Code of Ethics and national frameworks position principles and guidelines for ethical research with Aboriginal & Torres Strait Islander communities. ​

Through Aboriginal leadership, Community conversations, literature review and review of current ethical processes, VARAP will enable the localised interpretation & application of national frameworks to inform a draft Victorian Aboriginal Research Accord and its components for implementation. In doing so, prioritising the research needs of Victorian Aboriginal communities.

 – VARAP Artwork by Trina Dalton Oogjes


First and foremost, the Victorian Aboriginal Research Accord Project (VARAP) positions Aboriginal communities’ sovereignty, including sovereign knowledges, governance, worldviews and social systems that are thousands of years old. This position aligns with the UN Declaration of Indigenous Rights, AIATSIS Code of Ethics, legislated from The Australian Institute of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Studies Act 1989, and Advancing the Treaty Process with Aboriginal Victorians Act 2018.

The Aboriginal community in Victoria has attempted many times to have a voice in ethical health research over the years including:

  • A workshop in 1987 by the Menzies Foundation and NHMRC attended by about 30 Victorian Aboriginal community representatives that put the issue of Aboriginal health research ethics on the agenda for the first time, resulting in the first set of NHMRC Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander ethics guidelines in 1991.
  • An Aboriginal Ethics Committee was established by the Victorian Aboriginal Health Service over 20 years ago to promote Aboriginal voice and influence the research agenda. The Committee existed for a relatively short period of time.
  • The VicHelath Koori Health Research and Community Development Unit (Onemda), set up in partnership between VACCHO and University of Melbourne and funded by VicHealth, conducted Community workshops and subsequently published four reports in 2000, 2001, 2005 and 2007.
  • Then in 2010 VACCHO published a report from workshops with their members, Universities and other stakeholders setting the focus and agenda for future research themes regarding social determinants of Aboriginal health.

Recently the Andrews Labour Government committed to the development of a Victorian Health and Medical Research Accord as part of their platform for the 2018 election. From this commitment VARAP, led by VACCHO, with Aboriginal communities and organisations, will explore components of a future Victorian Aboriginal Research Accord

Why is VARAP important

VARAP’s core purpose is to embed Victorian Aboriginal community’s self-determination, regarding research that impacts Communities within a draft Accord which is Aboriginal led, informed by Aboriginal literature and is culturally appropriate.


Possible benefits

  1. Position Victorian Aboriginal Community Controlled research framework for Victoria.
  2. Develop State-wide mechanisms for Victorian Aboriginal community-driven research priorities to be positioned within institutional research agendas.
  3. Progress and implement research findings from Victorian Aboriginal-led initiatives from the last 30 years.
  4. Develop processes for Medical Research Institutes, Universities and Victorian Government, which enable a higher level of Aboriginal community participation in medical, health and wellbeing research.
  5. Position principles, standards, and protocols for both; ethical research and Ethics proposals for research which impacts Aboriginal communities.
  6. Develop research categories including research involving Aboriginal community, research which partners with Aboriginal community and Aboriginal-led research, and the different methodological expectations.
  7. Enable Victorian Aboriginal communities and Aboriginal researchers to define their rights regarding intellectual property and data sovereignty, and access to research findings.
  8. Ensure accessible, direct tangible research benefits for Aboriginal Communities.
  9. Ensure research proposals include Victorian Aboriginal Community workforce / research skill development, and / or employment.
  10. Develop a draft Accord which is budgeted and financially supported by Victorian Government, and other stakeholders.


For more information on the Victorian Aboriginal Research Accord Project, submit and enquiry form below.

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