New Centre policy to enhance digital futures for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander families

A new policy at the Digital Child will ensure Indigenous research undertaken by the Centre ethically and positively serves Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children and families.

The Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Research Ethics Policy sets expectations, standards, and guidelines for conducting Indigenous research, from the conception of initial ideas through to dissemination of research findings.

Led by the Centre’s Indigenous Advisor, Dr Marnee Shay, the policy demonstrates the Centre’s commitment to positively embed and advocate for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples and voices across its research.

“We know that Indigenous people are among the most researched people in the world, yet that research has not resulted in significantly improving our wellness, education, imprisonment rates, and a whole range of other social, economic, and health indicators,” said Dr Shay.

“This policy ensures that Indigenous research undertaken within the Centre produces rigorous research and high-quality outcomes that reflect Indigenous children and families’ aspirations, interests, and voices.”

The policy draws from two key Indigenous research ethical guidelines in Australia: the AIATSIS Code for Ethics for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Research (2020) and the NHMRC Ethical conduct in research with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Peoples and communities: Guidelines for researchers and stakeholders (2018).

“These are rigorous guidelines that were developed with input from diverse Indigenous experts and researchers. The Centre’s policy is grounded in these principles, definitions, and frameworks to conduct research in a way that enables Indigenous self-determination, leadership, high impact, value, and accountability,” said Dr Shay.

Dr Shay, whose maternal connections are to Wagiman country in the Northern Territory, is an ARC Discovery Australian Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Award Senior Research Fellow with extensive research expertise in Indigenous education and policy. She is leading new research that explores the role of co-design in research, policy and practice in Indigenous education settings.

These projects include Co-designing Indigenous education policy in Queensland (funded by the ARC), and Binung Ma Na Du: cultural stories and living histories on Wakka Wakka Wakka Country (funded by Australian Institute of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Studies), which will provide the first evidence of its kind on how co-design is conceptualised and enacted with aim of improving outcomes in Indigenous education.

“As an Aboriginal researcher, I know the impact that research underpinned by the principles in the policy can have in Indigenous communities when it is done well. It leaves seeds that continue to grow and be nurtured well beyond the life of the project,” said Dr Shay.

The policy was developed in collaboration with Indigenous and non-Indigenous Centre members: Professor Susan Danby, Troy Meston, Professor Grace Sarra, and Professor Annette Woods.

The policy will be supported by a professional development program for Centre researchers to build capacity and capability in implementing the policy in research settings.

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