NHMRC, guided by its Principal Committee Indigenous Caucus (PCIC), is reviewing the Indigenous Research Excellence Criteria (IREC) through a national consultation.


NHMRC has established certain requirements and processes designed to ensure that research into Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander health is of the highest scientific merit and is beneficial and acceptable to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples and communities.

The Indigenous Research Excellence Criteria (IREC) are for grant applications proposing to undertake research relating to the health of Aboriginal and/or Torres Strait Islander peoples.

To qualify as Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander health research, at least 20% of the research effort and/or capacity building must relate to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander health. 

The 4 criteria to address in grant applications are:

  • Community Engagement
  • Benefit
  • Sustainability and Transferability
  • Building capability

The response to the IREC is used during the scoring of grant applications. However, the IREC have not been reviewed for many years. Find out more about the IREC and about peer review.

IREC Review

We are interested in your feedback on the four Indigenous Research Excellence Criteria and how they are used, as well as the bigger picture of supporting excellence in Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander health research.

"We want to hear from you — what does Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander research excellence look like?" — PCIC Chair, Professor Yvonne Cadet-James

[Image is of Professor Yvonne Cadet James, Gugu Badhun woman and Adjunct Professor at the Indigenous Education and Research Centre, and the Office of the Provost at James Cook University, and NHMRC Principal Committee Indigenous Caucus (PCIC) Chair. Speaking to camera with NHMRC and Indigenous artwork as the backdrop.]

So the Indigenous Research Excellence Criteria is criteria that researchers need to address when they're applying for National Health and Medical Research Council grants.

This criteria was developed almost 20 years ago now as a guide to make sure that research conducted with and for Aboriginal Torres Strait Islander people is meaningful, ethical and has benefits and outcomes for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people.

End of transcript.


A discussion paper has been produced to inform the review. It provides information on the IREC and lists the consultation questions.

All interested parties are encouraged to provide their views by:

  • Providing a submission through the online public consultation, in response to specific questions
  • Attending a face-to-face workshop led by PCIC members (see locations and dates below).

Online public consultation

Online consultation is now open through our IREC Review Consultation online submission portal. The consultation closes Friday 8 September 2023 17:00 AEDT. 

Questions for the online consultation are detailed in the discussion paper.

Your contributions will inform a report and recommendations for the improvement of the IREC. Changes are expected to be incorporated into NHMRC grant opportunities during 2024.

[Image is of Professor Catherine Chamberlain, Palawa Trawlwoolway woman and Director of Indigenous Health at the University of Melbourne, and NHMRC Principal Committee Indigenous Caucus (PCIC) Member. Speaking to camera with NHMRC and Indigenous artwork as the backdrop.]

So we really want to hear from everybody that's involved in research. So the end users, so people in communities that are, and have been part of research over the last 20 years and want to be involved in research from Indigenous researchers.

And we want to know, you know, what can we do? What are, what are some of the issues? What are really the criteria for Aboriginal Torres Strait Islander research to make it better, or are these ones that we've been using for the last 20 years still OK?

End of transcript.


All workshops have now been completed. Watch a recoding of the webinar below.

Location Date Venue PCIC Lead
Perth 5 June AIATSIS National Summit Ms Samantha Faulkner
Perth 6 June Edith Cowan University Professor Daniel McAullay (former PCIC member)
Cairns 15 June Lowitja conference Professor Yvonne Cadet-James
Canberra 28 July NHMRC Professor Yvonne Cadet-James
Sydney 8 August University of Sydney Professor Maree Toombs
Brisbane 11 August University of Queensland Professor Gail Garvey
Adelaide 16 August SAHMRI A/Professors Alwin Chong and Odette Pearson (former PCIC member)
Melbourne 17 August University of Melbourne Professors Catherine Chamberlain
Alice Springs 22 August Flinders University Dr Sean Taylor
Darwin 23 August CDU/Menzies A/Professor Kalinda Griffiths and Dr Sean Taylor
Hobart 25 August UTAS Professor Catherine Chamberlain
Webinar 31 August Zoom Professor Yvonne Cadet-James


[Video displays from left to right Professor Yvonne Cadet-James, Chair of the Principal Committee Indigenous Caucus (PCIC), Professor Steve Wesselingh, NHRMC CEO, Mr Alan Singh, NHMRC Executive Director, Research Translation and Samantha Faulkner, NHMRC Director of Indigenous Advice.]

[Alan Singh] Good afternoon, everyone. I'm Alan Singh from NHMRC. And just before I pass to our CEO, I would just like to let you know that we are recording the session today so that others can benefit who aren't able to make the webinar.

[Steve Wesselingh] Thanks and thanks very much for joining us today. Before I start, I'd like importantly to acknowledge the traditional owners of the land that we are on here in Canberra, the Ngunnawal and Namburi people. I'd like to acknowledge that we're meeting on Aboriginal land and pay our respects to elders past and present and acknowledging Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders who are attending the

meeting today. This is actually my third day as the CEO of NHMRC. I've been very lucky and privileged to take over from Anne and I'm sure you're aware that Anne Kelso was did a fabulous job as the CEO and also that Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander health and research was very important to Anne and it is actually very important to me and I think that during my time particularly at SAHMRI I've I've learned an enormous amount in about Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander health and health research and people like Alex Brown and Odette [Pearson] and Kim Morey have taught me an enormous amount. So it's really important to me very close to my heart and and therefore I thought it was important to be here today to welcome you to this webinar about the Indigenous Research Excellence Criteria. And because I think they are really critical in terms of our moving

forward in in this area. And also I think we can be pretty proud of where NHMRC has got to. NHMRC established the target in 2002 to use 5% of NHMRC funding for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander health and medical research. And certainly we achieved that in 2008 and now we consistently meet or exceed that. And certainly I think we're now supporting a a large amount of really excellent and outstanding health and medical research in the area. But, the excellence criteria are really important and they haven't been looked at for a little while. And so I think it is a good idea at the moment to have another look at the excellence criteria, get consult with the wider community and and really look at these very carefully and update them and really nail them. So I'm really looking forward to this webinar and and really now would like to hand over to to Yvonne, who's a member of Council and chair of our Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Advisory Committee, the Principal Committee Indigenous Caucus, PCIC. And Yvonne has done so much work in this area. I'm really happy to hand over to Yvonne and hear from Yvonne. Thanks very much.

[Yvonne Cadet-James] Thanks Steve and good afternoon everyone. I'd like to knowledge the additional custodians of the Cairns area where I'm joining you from today. The Gimuy-walubarra Yidinji and Yirrganydji peoples also acknowledge Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people who have joined the webinar today. And also hello to our colleagues who work and walk beside us. As Steve said, I'm the principle on the chairperson of the Principal Committee Indigenous Caucus, PCIC and along with other members of the committee, we have led many workshops about the review of the Indigenous Research Excellence Criteria across the nation over the last couple of weeks. NHMRC had adopted the IREC to ensure that funding, including additional structural priority funding, is targeted to research that is most likely to deliver possible health benefits for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people and build the capability of the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander research workforce.

PCIC guides and provides directions on the commitment set out in the NHMRC's Road Map 3 - A Strategic Framework for Improving Aboriginal and Torres Islander Health through research.

PCIC also monitors progress in the road map and it’s associated action plan and one of those action items for 2021-2024 is to review the excellence criteria and also look at improvements that can be made and particularly in terms of peer review of applications about Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander health with the advice of the PCIC. The ultimate aim is a future in which Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people and communities strong owners of, participants in and beneficiaries of health and medical research at all levels.

The review of the IREC in consultation with researchers and communities is key in ensuring that the way researchers guided follow those principles that all of the knowledge and social systems, cultural values and beliefs, and ethical protocols to provide many [in auditable].Your contributions will inform a report and recommendations for the improvement of the IREC to ensure that Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander health research is of the highest scientific merit. It's beneficial and acceptable to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people and communities. So we're very much looking forward to your input. I encourage you all to provide a submission via the online portal by Friday the 8th of September. Thank you. And I'll hand it over to Alan.

Alan Singh: Thanks very much Yvonne. And let me also acknowledge the traditional owners on which I am today, the Ngunnawal and Namburi people and pay my respects to Elders past and present and extend a warm NHMRC welcome to all the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people in our meeting today. Thank you very much for joining us for this webinar about the Indigenous Research Excellence Criteria. We have a consultation open at the moment that will close on the 8th of September and we've actually just finished a series of workshops around the country, but we wanted to give the opportunity to people who weren't able to attend one of the workshops the the chance to to hear from us and have the, the, the, the background for the the review explained. We will be able to take a few questions towards the end of the todays session, so you can just pop the questions in the chat. But we're really looking at this mostly as a an opportunity to start your thinking so that you are able to put in a submission online. 

So let me then just see if I can share my screen and hopefully that will come through in just a moment. Give it a second or two.

[Video displays screen share of PowerPoint presentation]

So we're talking about the Indigenous Research Excellence Criteria. But first of all, let me just, I suspect most of you have some familiarity with NHMRC, but just in case, let me give you a little bit of background. So we're Australia's leading expert body in health and medical research and we have three main functions. One is we provide funding for health and medical research, it's about 900-950 million a year. Secondly, we develop and approve guidelines and other health advice,

so things like the Australian Dietary Guidelines or the alcohol guidelines. And the third thing we do is develop ethical standards. And many of you I'm sure will be aware of the ethical guidelines for research with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Peoples and the associated Keeping Research on Track documents. And I think it's important to acknowledge that we do work in a broader context including the Closing the Gap agenda, the UN Declaration of the Rights of Indigenous Peoples and the National Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Health Plan to name just a a few of the most relevant.

So as Steve flagged earlier in our work on Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander health, we are advised by a group of Aboriginal Trust Fund health researchers. We have a Indigenous person on our council and on our all of our principal committees and those people come together and with a few extra early and mid-career researchers to form our Principal Committee Indigenous Caucus and you can see the members on screen. And so we have,

we've been very much guarded by PCIC in how we are going about this review and we're very grateful to them for hosting the, the workshops that have been occurring around the country.

Don't worry, I'm not going to go through this entire slide. But this is just to let you know that Aboriginal and Torres Islander health has been a priority for NHMRC for many years now. And you can see there that in 1994 we provided our first grant to a - that was led by an Aboriginal researcher and Professor Ian Anderson, that in 1998 we adopted the Darwin criteria, which is relevant because they were the first form of the Indigenous Research Excellence Criteria that we're going to be talking about today.

The, I guess the other Steve already talked about the 5% target. And the other thing I'd like to highlight on this slide really is that very last entry because a couple of years ago we were really pleased to be able to provide funding to establish a national network of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander researchers which is now known as OCHRe.

So some of the key things or ways we we lead and govern ourselves in relation to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander health. We've already talked about PCIC and the the road map which is our strategic framework for Aboriginal Torres Islander health and the the 5% target. The other thing I'd like to draw your attention to on this particular slide is the 3.4% target in the far right. And this is again something we were guided on by PCIC. And as a result, we've just adopted a new target of 3.4% of our grants are being led by an Aboriginal and/or Torres Strait Islander researcher.

So let's start talking about the Indigenous Research Excellence Criteria and what are they? Essentially when people apply to NHMRC for funding, if it's in relation to Aboriginal Torres Strait Islander health then they need to provide some extra information.

Against the full criteria which you can see on the screen community engagement, building capacity, sustainability and transferability and benefit.

The the threshold at which that comes into play can be a little confusing and so it's highlighted on the slide there for you. But basically any application where at least 20% of the research effort and or capacity building relates to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander health, that's when they have to provide this extra information against these four criteria and

That's a straight quote of of that threshold and how it's described. And so perhaps it might not surprise you that one of her key questions for this review is, is that how understandable is that? Is that still the, the, the right threshold to be using?

So I flagged up the IREC criteria were first known as the Darwin criteria. But I guess the reason we're here today is in fact they IREC have never been subject to a national consultation since they were first developed. There was a rapid review a few years ago and as a result there were six criteria that point and they were merged into four. But we have launched this consultation which has as I mentioned involved workshops around the country and there's a discussion paper and an online survey or portal where you can put in your views and you've got the the link there. But I'm sure if you later on just Google NHMRC, IREC review you'll find the the relevant pages. And as I mentioned and I probably will repeat a few times, submissions closed on the 8th of September, so next Friday.

Let's talk about what the questions for the review are. And so these are the ones which we are seeking your feedback on the online consultation and also the ones which have been discussed at the, the workshops. The first question is very simple. It's basically are those four criteria of community engagement, benefits, sustainability, transferability and building capability, are they still appropriate? We're aware of a lot of work that's been done in the past few years

by many different organisations, including people like AIATSIS and Lowitja Institute and others. And so there were very aware that there's different ways of identifying principles or domains which are really important for making sure health research and Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander health is fit, is fit for purpose, acceptable to communities and unlikely to lead to greatest benefit. And so the question is, are these still the right criteria that NHMRC

should be using? And if not, you know what should we use instead? By the way, I do encourage you to download the discussion paper from the the online site and at the back of that you'll find a couple of sheets which basically compare the criteria we using to some of that work done by other organisations like AIATSIS.

The second question is as I flagged before the threshold at at what point should an application need to address the Indigenous Research Excellence Criteria Or another way of looking at it is at what point is an application about Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander health? And we have that 20% of research effort and or capacity building threshold at the moment. And the reason for that is it's kind of a pragmatic one. If it was purely, if we only apply the criteria to applications which are

of 100% or wholly about Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander health, we would miss out on many applications where Indigenous health is a really important part of them. And so wouldn't you want the extra reassurance of knowing for those applications that they also had thought carefully about benefits, sustainability, transferability, you know, engage with communities and so on. But the question really is at what point do you put that threshold? Is it 20%, is it 50%? Should it be even lower and be 0%?

So that's one question. Another possible question is why use a a percentage qualifier at all? Maybe there's another way to think about it.

There's a number of issues around the fact that it's 20% of research effort and/or capacity building.

Anecdotally people have found that to be confusing and so again is that the right way to be a thing to be looking at. And lastly the very interesting question of whose capacity actually should be built and and you know one of the things we've heard is perhaps part of that should be the capacity and capability of non-Indigenous researchers to be engaging with Aboriginal and Torres Islander communities. So that's the second question.

The third question is then how do we take the material people use give us in relation to the IREC and then ensure that that gets used for a rigorous peer review process as NHMC is known for.

That diagram there. If you don't have time to read in full, again it's in the discussion paper, but really it's there just to highlight the fact that the the IREC, the the information provided against the IREC criteria is used and affectively considered separately in in most cases from the work by the panel that scores the applications. And so what happens is we have a separate IREC assessor who provides a report against the criteria, which then goes to the panel members who are scoring the application.

And again, that's been a process which is really picked pragmatically to make. We were aware that, you know, there's a limited workforce for people who are able to do these kind of assessments and and we don't want to necessarily overtax them by asking them to be on many, many grant review panels. And so this is a sort of halfway house in between. But perhaps the time has come to think about how that could be done better or and if that's still the right way to go about things.

So those are the three questions about the IREC itself. But there is a fourth question and that's really do you have any other ideas for identifying and reinforcing higher quality research that is aimed at improving Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander health? There are different examples overseas of of things people do, For example the idea of iterative review where an application, if it's unsuccessful, gets feedback and essentially gets a fast track to resubmit. We have other examples of of funding bodies that set aside money specifically for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander research. Like the ARC.  NHMRC has a few calls specifically in priority areas of Indigenous health where the money is set aside, but generally speaking we don't do that for our large schemes.

And another idea which will come back to is whether was looking at the example of New Zealand where they have the Māori Advancement Criteria which involves all applications needing to provide some information about how it would improve Māori health.

So three questions specifically about the Indigenous Research Excellence Criteria and then a a bit of a catch-all and that's what you'll find on the consultation portal to see what ideas you can you have for us.

They mentioned that we had a lot of workshops around the country and I want to give you, you have flavour of some of the things that we've heard already.

But I just wanted to acknowledge that there's been these many workshops and as I said, these have been facilitated by our Principal Committee Indigenous Caucus members. And we're really grateful for all that work. And you'll see a couple of photos there and you've noticed a couple of photos I'm sure, on the way through of some of those workshops.

So that's the just pause a little bit to talk about the sort of things that we've heard.

This is by no means a comprehensive run through which just wanted to give you a little bit of a flavour. And obviously different sessions have prioritised different things and identified important considerations and so these are some of the most common. And so the things people have said to us basically that the Indigenous Research Excellence Criteria, they are still relevant and they're pretty right. But you know, we do need to refresh them with the current terminology and thinking.

So secondly, that as we do that, it's probably time to actually raise expectations. So rather than community engagement, what this one example is, rather than community engagement, maybe we should be talking about community leadership or community governance. A third thing was that there are some concepts which we probably need to think about whether they should be included. Really important things like Indigenous knowledges, which I don't think are explicitly called out in the in the current criteria, but also things like data sovereignty, the importance of translation and the importance of impact.

A very common set of comments was around accountability and the fact that, you know people as part of their applications say they will do a number of different things. And the question is, you know, did they actually do those things and and who's checking to make sure that people did what they promised.

So those are very much around the the criteria themselves. There was plenty of discussion in relation to question 2 about that 20% threshold and widespread agreement that it is a bit confusing and perhaps there is the ability for people to try and gain it, which happens whenever there is a, you know, a fixed threshold. But nobody could really put their finger on what would be or would definitely be a better system. And so if you have any ideas, more than happy to hear from you about that. We did hear that it's going to be important for us to think about resources for training and supporting IREC assessors, but also for panel members. And an I think people were keen on was trying to make sure there's greater consistency in how that IREC report is then used to adjust the scoring, the final scoring for the application.

And one really interesting comment that has come through from many, I think just about all of the sessions is this some thought that perhaps it's time to consider a question in funding applications, which is about simply how would that project benefit Aboriginal and Torres Islander health or it might be a variation of that sort of question. So very much picking up on this idea of the Māori Advancement Criteria that they are now using in in New Zealand. Similarly for every single grant application that they receive. So you can see that lot of really interesting feedback there and we are very keen to supplement that with them all the material we get through the online consultation and definitely encourage you to put in your views.

So to finish the presentation, I just want to once again remind you that it closes next Friday. You've got the link there. What we will then be doing is looking at all the information and comments that have been provided,

put that into a consultation report and we'll seek to publish that before the end of the year. Obviously we will take the comments to the Principal Committee Indigenous Caucus and go through them in some detail with the the committee and work out what changes we need to make as a result. We then would work through our usual governance, which would include Research Committee and Council of NHMRC

Would then look to change or amend our grant guidelines. But I just wanted to signal that because of the lag in producing grant guidelines, because even once they're written they need to, there's some government requirements like going getting approved from the Minister of Finance and our minister and so on and so forth. And so the first you would see of the new criteria would be probably schemes that are opening in October next year.

So that's a lot of information in a short amount of time. So I hope I haven't gone through it too quickly and I think we can pause for a few minutes just to see if there are any questions in the chat. So if you've got any, please do pop them in and we'll see if we can answer them now.

[Samantha Faulkner] Great. We did have a question just about if the webinar was going to be available on the website and I've said yes. So for those of us who couldn't, couldn't join today and obviously who couldn't attend the face-to-face workshops, at least they'll get to view the PowerPoint presentation or run through the questions and hear from Yvonne, Stephen Alan just around the consultations and how they're progressing as well too.

[Alan Singh} And can I just pause to introduce Samantha Faulkner, our Indigenous advisor.


[Screen share of PowerPoint taken off. Showing Alan Singh and Samantha Faulkner]


[Samantha Faulkner] Thanks. Yeah. And also there is a copy of the discussion paper and the IREC National consultation that Amy has included in the chat as well too. And also on the website you'll see, I think we might have a PDF of the discussion paper, but I'll just double check that after this as well too, so feel free. I see a few names that have joined us today that haven't made it to the workshop, so I'm hoping you can either provide a question to us or up online after this and submit a provider submission to the online portal.

Any questions, just pop them in the chat. Otherwise, um, I guess you'll be interested in the benefits and barriers to the IREC that are outlined in the discussion paper as well. And these have been put together over time and mentioned during the workshops and the PowerPoint presentation that IREC assessors are not usually involved in overall scoring of applications as one of the barriers,

and that there's no qualitative feedback provided to unsuccessful applicants. But some of the benefits of IREC assessment is that there's scrutiny of applications by Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander health researchers.

Peer reviewers have the benefits of IREC assessor expertise via the IREC report and that funding, potentially including structural priority funding, flows to applications most likely to bring positive health benefits to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people.

We've got a question. Thank you in the chat around if we could be specific with what was said by First Nations people in the consultation publication. So

I guess in the, ,we we've put the discussion paper together with the Principal Committee Indigenous Caucus and maybe that might be something that Yvonne, I would like to address as well too about the development of the discussion paper. So I'll just invite Yvonne if she'd like to say a few words to that.

[Yvonne appears back on screen]

[Yvonne Cadet-James] Sorry, Sam, you just dropped out then. Sorry,

[Samantha Faulkner] The question was,

Can you be specific with what was said by First Nations people in the consultation publication? So I'm reading that as the discussion paper. How was the discussion paper put together?

[Yvonne Cadet-James] Right. So the last two meetings of the PCIC, this is very much the topic. So there was lots of discussion about how what need you go into the discussion paper. What would be a logical way of getting that information out there? Because it is a lot of information to absorb and also work with the NHMRC staff, Sam and Alan who have actually took that on board for us and developed the the paper.

[Alan Singh] And if I could just jump in there as well. We will do what we can to identify in the consultation, the report where you know there are First Nations comments. But I guess from having attended most of the workshops, it certainly feels like the majority of people attending overall were themselves Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people. It was also really important for NHMRC that this consultation basically be designed and led by Aboriginal Torres Strait Islander people and you know that hence the the importance of PCIC in in really leading and guiding us along the way. So I'm very hopeful that the the result of the consultation will very much reflect views of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people.

[Samantha Faulkner] Thanks, Yvonne.

There there was also a question about the next steps and process will you undertake in what will be adopted. But I think that last slide of the presentation really showed the steps coming up internally and then getting there the recommendations through PCIC, through our CEO, respective committees and then Alan mentioned the time to get that those clearance processes through the minister as well. So then maybe have a look at the slides when it's up on the web website.

A couple more questions coming through or or a comment here. I would like to see the criteria for excellence in research moved earlier in the research process, so maybe earlier on at the funding request, for example, using NHMRC's ethical conduct and research with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people and communities, guidelines for researchers and stakeholders. So maybe just more of a comment there.

How is co-designed and consumer and community involvement in research assessed in these instances? so I'll leave that open for Alan or Yvonne to respond to. I think co-design did come up in quite a number of the workshops as well too.

[Yvonne Cadet-James] There was some question around, you know, people just loosely mentioning co-design rather than making sure that if co-design or whatever term people are using is actually reflected in the application, which is the most important thing rather than just using a throwaway line. In terms of consumer involvement in NHMRC has a wide range of consumers that that advise on on different committees, grant review panels and certainly we have Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander consumers that are involved as well.

[Samantha Faulkner] Anything further to add? Alan

[Alan Singh] I guess just that the given that it's against the the four criteria, so I think when you start talking about co-design and you know genuine community I guess leadership or identification of priorities. So hopefully that then becomes a very strong response to say the community engagement criteria. But of course you know more can be done and as I mentioned there is sort of that discussion about whether you know like effectively what's the minimum we should expect now in 2023?

[Samantha Faulkner]And I've heard of the term co-creator as well too. So whether it's co-design, co-creator, another term, but as you said, just explaining that and responding to that as well too.

OK, thank you. Here's another question too. About Indigenous leadership on NHMRC applications. The NHMRC has the 3.4% target that Indigenous people are the CIA's. But for applications that are 20% or more about Indigenous health where CIA is non-Indigenous, should we include the question in applications? As a non-Indigenous person, why are you the best person to be named the CIA? Why is an Indigenous person not named CIA and you be the CIB?

[Alan Singh] Yvonne? Did you have any comments on that one,

[Yvonne Cadet-James] Certainly I've been assessing grants for some time and certainly that's the question I ask if if that person actually has the qualifications or potential with with mentoring by a senior person that might be CIB and and the Indigenous person, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander person with that potential can be the actual principal investigator. And that way we, yeah, build build capability in terms of that leadership in terms of chief investigators on grants.

[Alan Singh] And I think this is certainly something we have heard at a number of sessions, in fact probably all of them this question of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander leadership and maybe it would be the criteria need to focus more on that or certainly be more explicit about those sorts of expectations.

[Samantha Faulkner] Yes. Thanks OK. I'm not seeing anything else come through just yet. Is anything else that, Yvonne, you'd like to add? No,

[Yvonne Cadet-James] I think in just thinking through where we are at the moment in terms of research, we moved a long way since we had the original Darwin criteria. So some of the workshops that I that I ran, people were talking about. So things like making sure that we're thinking about things like you know, new areas and technology, AI, you know, artificial intelligence, big data, genetics and genomics. So you know in terms of the criteria are we considering those new trends and technologies as well. So that was some of the discussion.

[Samantha Faulkner] and OK, yes, and there's another one that's come in too. How can NHMRC ensure that appropriate funding is included to appropriately value financially the time, effort, knowledge, expertise, and so on of participants in research, especially Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people? So often at the HRIC stage is that the funding wasn't sought.

[Alan Singh] I mean to me this is a, a really difficult question. I don't think an NHMRC has a good answer for it. The CEO is still here and listening. So we'll take that as a comment for us to think about.

[Samantha Faulkner] Yvonne did you want to add anything in terms of how a good application should be written and showing that part?

[Yvonne Cadet-James] Yes. I certainly in NHMRC you know approves budgets where there is renumeration for for participants to to travel to participate. Yeah to participate to provide their time and their knowledge as part of the, as part of the very important input that Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander researcher bring to the table. So certainly people is funded if it's in the budget. I mean obviously it has to go through the the process, but yeah.

[Samantha Faulkner] Thanks. OK. Have we got another one there? OK, just another one.

And is it worth considering a category of all Indigenous CI's, and NHMRC has this for some ECR grants. So I'm taking that, maybe it's a funding round just for Indigenous, CIs

[Alan Singh] and those sort of ideas. We would as I said, we're very open to and we'd love to hear those. So please do put those in by the portal.

[Samantha Faulkner] OK.

[Steve Wesselingh] I was just going to say to the, I mean I think that's a really important question and certainly in in part structural priorities that does attend to that because we do allocate significant structural priority funding to grants and both Investigator grants and Ideas grants where Indigenous people are the CIA, CIA and obviously investigator grants they are. So yeah.

[Video display all presenters on screen]

[Alan Singh] Any final questions?

[Samantha Faulkner] No, I don't think we've had any other questions. So thank you

[Alan Singh] Yvonne. Any final thoughts?

[Yvonne Cadet-James] Yes. No, just really appreciate everyone's time and everyone's time poor these days. So it's been really great for everyone and thank you very much to everybody online. Your inputs very valuable to us. As we said, it's very timely that we we move forward and and review this criteria so that we can have the best outcomes for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander health through research. So once again, thank you so much for all your time.

[Alan Singh] Thank you very much, Yvonne, and thank you everyone for your participation. Once again Friday the 8th of September. So please, please do put your thoughts and responses in before then.

Thank you very much.

End of transcript.


Road Map 3 is the NHMRC's strategic framework for improving Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander health, through research. The Road Map is accompanied by an Action Plan that outlines our commitments. The 2021-24 Triennium Action Plan includes the commitment to:

“Review the NHMRC Indigenous Research Excellence Criteria and their use, and consider the other improvements that could be made to peer review of applications about Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander health, with the advice of the Principal Committee Indigenous Caucus”.

NHMRC is Australia’s leading expert body in health and medical research with a remit of funding research and providing health guidelines and ethical standards. NHMRC operates within the broader Health and Medical Research system, within a framework of:

  • the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples (UNDRIP)
  • Closing the Gap (CTG) Targets
  • Population projects
  • Social Justice and Equity considerations.

In the past 30 years NHMRC has achieved significant milestones in its commitment to improving the health of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples.

  • In 1994 NHMRC’s first lead Aboriginal and/or Torres Strait Islander Chief Investigator to be funded was Professor Ian Anderson.
  • In 1998 NHMRC adopted the Darwin Criteria to ensure that specific standards were addressed and assessed for Indigenous health research.
  • In 2002 NHMRC Council recommended an Aboriginal and/or Torres Strait Islander representative be appointed to Council and each of the Principal Committees.
  • In 2008 the target of spending 5% of the Medical Research Endowment Account (MREA) on Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander health was reached.
  • In 2021 the $10 million National Network of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Health Researchers (now known as OCHRe) was established.
  • From 2022 onwards NHMRC has set a target of 3.4% of NHMRC grants awarded annually led by an Aboriginal and/or Torres Strait Islander researcher. 

Find a timeline of NHMRC's achievements from 1994 to 2021 involving Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander health research.

One of the Action Items is to publish an annual report of achievements against the Action Plan including reporting against key performance indicators. Read our Report card of achievements 2022.


If you have any questions about the IREC Consultation email Indigenous.advice@nhmrc.gov.au