Ethical guidelines for researchers in Aboriginal communities

Research Unit for Indigenous Language team member Dr Brett Baker recently gave a presentation for the Office for Research Ethics and Integrity (OREI, University of Melbourne) concerning ethical guidelines for researchers working with Aboriginal communities.

The work carried out by researchers actively contributes to the transmission and safeguarding of important cultural, linguistic and historical information. It is therefore of utmost importance to recognise the right of indigenous communities and individuals to maintain, control, protect and develop their traditional knowledge and cultural expressions, and the inherent ownership they have over this intellectual property. It is also important to recognise that communities and individuals within the region hold different views as to what these rights entail. The Australian Institute of Australian and Torres Strait Islander Studies (AIATSIS) have developed a set of principles which can be used to guide the establishment or maintenance of a research project. These can be seen below.

View the pdf of his presentation

AIATSIS Principles of ethical research
Principle 1 Recognition of the diversity and uniqueness of peoples, as well as of individuals, is essential.
Principle 2 The rights of Indigenous peoples to self‐determination must be recognised.
Principle 3 The rights of Indigenous peoples to their intangible heritage must be recognised.
Principle 4 Rights in the traditional knowledge and traditional cultural expressions of Indigenous peoples must be respected, protected and maintained.
Principle 5 Indigenous knowledge, practices and innovations must be respected, protected and maintained.
Principle 6 Consultation, negotiation and free, prior and informed consent are the foundations for research with or about Indigenous peoples.
Principle 7 Responsibility for consultation and negotiation is ongoing.
Principle 8 Consultation and negotiation should achieve mutual understanding  about the proposed research.
Principle 9 Negotiation should result in a formal agreement for the conduct of a research project.
Principle 10 Indigenous people have the right to full participation appropriate to their skills and experiences in research projects and processes.
Principle 11 Indigenous people involved in research, or who may be affected by research, should benefit from, and not be disadvantaged by, the research project.
Principle 12 Research outcomes should include specific results that respond to the needs and interests of Indigenous people.
Principle 13 Plans should be agreed for managing use of, and access to, research results.
Principle 14 Research projects should include appropriate mechanisms and procedures for reporting on ethical aspects of the research and complying with these guidelines.
Source: The Australian Institute of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Studies guidelines