In 2020, NHMRC invested $10 million to fund a National Network for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander health researchers as part of responding to Road Map 3: A strategic framework for improving Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander health through research. The application process commenced in December 2019 through an Expression of Interest (EOI) stage and a National Network was established in December 2020.

The intent of the Network was to create one inclusive system that brings together Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander health research groups and their support networks to create a structure that builds capacity and capability of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander health researchers. Capacity refers to the number of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander health researchers while capability refers to the skills, networks, knowledge and competitiveness of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander health researchers. The Network also worked towards providing a voice for Indigenous health researchers, empowering communities and nurturing national and international collaborations to improve Indigenous health. Two consultative workshops were held with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander health researchers and related organisations in 2018 to develop this Targeted Call.  

Key activities included linking people and organisations to support one another in research, mentoring, publications, funding, translation and advocacy to enhance Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander health research at all levels. Strategically, the intention was that the Network establish itself as a sustainable entity beyond the five-year funding period and make strong connections with the health and research systems (for example, with Aboriginal community-controlled health organisations, other networks, research environments or organisations).

The Network was expected to have the following key attributes and objectives:  

  • Good governance and leadership with a shared national vision.  
  • Translate research evidence into policy and practice.
  • Well-resourced and sustainable.  
  • Build the workforce to enhance and strengthen capacity and capability of Indigenous researchers.
  • Indigenous-led and connected through existing networks to facilitate conversations.  
  • Collaborative, sharing and nurturing environment to support Indigenous researchers.
  • Valuing Indigenous knowledges and the creation of excellence within that framework.  
  • Community focused and valuing diversity and inclusion.  
  • Culturally secure environment to support Indigenous researchers in their work.  

Application process

NHMRC funded the Network through an expression of interest, seed funding and full application process as follows:

  1. A shortlist of EOI applicants were interviewed by the panel. (The interviews were held to allow the applicants to elaborate on their plans and to explain the nuances of their proposed National Network that would be difficult to communicate in concise written format.)
  2. A small number of successful EOI applicants were provided with feedback and $35,000 seed funding to establish collaborations, conduct meetings and develop a single Network proposal with other seed-funded groups.
  3. A workshop was held to allow the seed-funded grantees to meet, present and learn the goals of all seed-funded applicants.  
  4. A single proposal for a Network was assessed by an expert panel.  
  5. Applications needed to be led by an Aboriginal and/or Torres Strait Islander person. EOIs were only accepted from consortia of organisations.

Applicants were asked to outline different aspects of their proposal, including vision, innovation, capacity building and research translation, sustainability, governance and leadership, and community engagement.