Indigenous health

NHMRC is committed to improving the health of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples. This commitment covers all aspects of NHMRC's responsibilities: pursuing activities which raise the standard of individual and public health throughout Australia, fostering the development of consistent health standards between the states and territories, supporting medical and public health research and training and promoting consideration of ethical issues related to health.

The NHMRC Strategic Plan 2013-2015 continues the long standing commitment to improve the health of Aboriginal peoples and Torres Strait Islanders through the support of health research and its translation.

As part of its strategic approach the NHMRC has developed Road Map II: A strategic framework for improving the health of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people through research. Launched in June 2010, Road Map II focuses on seven action areas aimed at building capacity for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander researchers and investing in research that addresses issues of importance to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples. The seven action areas are:

  • Improving the participation of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people in NHMRC programs
  • Capacity exchange
  • Promotion of NHMRC’s role in Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander health
  • Close the Gap
  • Evaluation research
  • Intervention research
  • Priority-driven research.

In line with this, the NHMRC commits to spending at least 5% of funding under the Medical Research Endowment Fund on Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander health each year.

Reconciliation Action Plan

The NHMRC has developed a Reconciliation Action Plan (RAP) in collaboration with Reconciliation Australia about turning good intentions into real actions and rising to the challenge of reconciling Australia. A RAP is a business plan that uses an holistic approach to create meaningful relationships, enhance respect and promote sustainable opportunities for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Australians.

Indigenous Health Research funding

There has been a steady increase in the proportion of NHMRC funds spent on Indigenous health research. In 2014, expenditure was 5.6% of the MREA, or approximately $50 million.

Summary of Expenditure: Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Health Research

Year Expenditure Proportion %
2000 $3,844,645 2.3%
2001 $5,565,475 2.7%
2002 $6,443,891 2.5%
2003 $9,494,373 3.0%
2004 $12,124,238 3.4%
2005 $18,014,002 4.3%
2006 $20,421,828 4.5%
2007 $23,283,896 4.3%
2008 $32,366,264 5.0%
2009 $37,266,066 5.1%
2010 $42,487,704 5.7%
2011 $44,679,839 5.6%
2012 $48,783,698 5.9%
2013 $47,083,616 5.6%
2014 $50,348,006 5.6%

More information:

Funding for Indigenous health, medical research and researchers

NHMRC funds Indigenous health and medical research across all its funding schemes. In addition, it has established specific funding schemes to support research in priority areas and to build capacity in Indigenous health.

Indigenous Advisory and Stakeholder Engagement

The NHMRC has established an advisory committee to seek advice on Indigenous health and Indigenous health research issues: Principal Committee Indigenous Caucus (PCIC).

Indigenous Health Research Ethics

In implementing its mandate to foster consideration of ethical issues relating to health, NHMRC has undertaken specific activities to address concerns articulated by Indigenous peoples in relation to the ethics of health research.

In 1991, the NHMRC developed the Interim Guidelines on Ethical Matters in Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Health Research. These were reviewed and in 2003 replaced by Values and Ethics: Guidelines for Ethical Conduct in Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Health Research. In 2005, NHMRC published Keeping research on track: a guide for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples about health research ethics.

In 2013, the NHMRC commenced its review of the Values and Ethics Guidelines to ensure that Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander health research is being conducted in an ethical and culturally safe and appropriate manner as to protect the health, safety and well-being of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples and their communities.

Indigenous Health advice

NHMRC develops or endorses national guidelines and provides health advice to the Australian people and Government. It has implemented a number of initiatives that address health priority areas for Indigenous communities.

International Partnerships

Tripartite Agreement

On 11 June 2012, a tripartite agreement between NHMRC, Health Research Council of New Zealand (HRC), and Canadian Institutes of Health Research (CIHR) was established. The aim of the agreement is to support research in the area of Indigenous health with the goal of improving the health of Indigenous peoples in these three countries. The Tripartite Agreement will provide the opportunity to develop a coordinated approach to sharing innovative best practices, information and expertise.

The NHMRC participated in a Mentorship Workshop with HRC and CIHR in Melbourne in May 2013 to identify effective ways to build capacity and mentor Indigenous medical health researchers.

Capacity Building of Indigenous Researchers

National Forum – Research Excellence through Building Capacity of Indigenous Researchers

On 8 April 2014, NHMRC held a national forum to bring Australian Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander researchers and key stakeholders together to; develop a model to build and strengthen the capacity and research excellence of Indigenous health researchers; encourage applicants to apply to NHMRC schemes; and seek feedback on Chapter 3 of the Australian Code for the Responsible Conduct of Research.

Research Translation in Indigenous Health

NHMRC Translating Research into Policy and Practice (TRIPP) Forum

On 17 May 2016, NHMRC held a forum bringing key researchers and stakeholders together to discuss research translation in Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander health. This looked to identify evidence practice and policy gaps, effectiveness of interventions and other health questions relevant to Indigenous Australians. Advice was provided to the CEO on appropriate courses of action.

NHMRC publications relating to Indigenous health

View all NHMRC publications relating to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander health.

Description of the artwork: The artwork (top of page) for the National Health and Medical Research Council's work with Indigenous health and medical research communicates empowerment of people over their health, the progression of learning and knowledge out from the meeting place (NHMRC - bottom left corner), where many people are gathered. In the streams there are the sources of nutrition and health - ants, berry bush and fish, as well as stars which symbolise new ideas.