It is essential that Indigenous people are full participants in research projects that concern them, and that they understand the aims and methods of the research, and share the results of this work.
The FRDC acknowledges that Aboriginal and Torres Strait communities and groups have their own protocols, and that these must be observed, understood, respected and engaged with as an essential, ongoing part of the research process.
Indigenous people have certain rights associated with, and based on, the prior occupation of country and water and activities (e.g. fishing, gathering) associated with the use and management of these. These include the right to maintain and develop cultural practices to address spiritual, cultural, social and economic needs, and the right to determine courses of action in relation to use and management of aquatic biological resources*.
In addition to customary activities, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people also participate in commercial and recreational fishing. There should be implicit consideration of this in all RD&E projects, unless there is clearly no link.
There are some common themes to consider before applying for FRDC funding and during projects that involve or have the potential to impact Aboriginal or Torres Strait Island peoples:
- Consultation, negotiation and mutual understanding
- Respect, recognition and involvement
- Benefits, outcomes and agreements
- Cultural and intellectual property.
All research project protocols developed must explicitly recognise and show commitment to respecting Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander cultural values and principles.
*References to rights were derived in part from the ‘Convention on Biological Diversity’ and the ‘United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples’.
Resources and further reading
While researchers should be aware that many communities have their own protocols in place, the resources listed below may be useful:
- Australian Institute of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Studies Guidelines for Ethical Research in Indigenous Studies
- Desert Knowledge CRC Protocol for Aboriginal Knowledge and Intellectual Property
- National Health and Medical Research Council, Values and Ethics: Guidelines for Ethical Conduct in Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Health Research
- Guidelines for ethical and effective communication for researchers working in Torres Strait
- NT Government, Indigenous Marine Ranger Engagement Guidelines
- FRDC Indigenous Reference Group