Ethics approval

Ethics approval for this study was sought in January 2007 from DoHA's Departmental Ethics Committee (DEC), which includes specialist Indigenous advisors. The DEC requested DoHA and Urbis to provide certain additional information and clarification of a number of issues relating to the methods and approaches proposed; after receipt of this supplementary material the DEC gave its approval in March 2007 for the study to proceed.

Research undertaken

As previously explained, the methodology for this study reflected its focus on practice and policy issues related to facilitating NSP access for Indigenous clients. Main elements of the research included the following:
  • Fieldwork visits to 14 cities and towns (located in all jurisdictions except Tasmania)16 involving consultation with people such as NSP managers and workers, management or staff of Aboriginal health services, people working in drug and alcohol services, drug user support groups, other relevant organisations and service providers, and a total of 40 Indigenous IDUs (both male and female) in seven different cities and towns. The locations visited by the study team were as follows:

    • Northern Territory - Darwin and Alice Springs
    • Western Australia - Perth and Carnarvon
    • South Australia - Adelaide and Port Augusta
    • Victoria - Melbourne and Mildura
    • New South Wales - Sydney, Dubbo/Wellington and Taree
    • Queensland - Cairns and Mt Isa
    • Australian Capital Territory - Canberra

    The research visits were conducted by two-person teams including an Indigenous and a non- Indigenous researcher. In planning and carrying out these visits Urbis sought the guidance and advice of relevant organisations and service providers in each location, including for example local NSP services, drug user support groups and Aboriginal health services. The study team also requested the advice and assistance of such organisations in making contact with some IDUs in the local area, so that clients and potential clients of NSPs could have some direct input to the study. As noted above, 40 IDUs took part in interviews, in seven metropolitan and regional locations (Sydney, Darwin, Canberra, Taree, Dubbo, Cairns and Alice Springs). IDUs were interviewed either individually or in small groups, as they preferred; approximately two-thirds were male and one-third female. Appendix A lists the people consulted in each location (IDUs are of course not named).

    Top of pageAppendix D and Appendix E set out the discussion guides which the study team used in conducting semistructured interviews with service providers and IDUs respectively. Background information on the study, its objectives and methods was provided to the various agencies and experts approached by the study team. A Plain English information sheet (see Appendix F) was given to each IDU who expressed interest in participating in the research, and the researchers went through this at the start of each IDU interview to ensure that it was understood. Each participant signed an appropriate consent form, and a payment of $50 was made to each. The IDUs who were interviewed were recruited in approximately equal numbers through drug user groups and other community-based organisations, and through NSP outlets.

    Obviously the material gathered from these interviews was qualitative in nature. The study team's notes on each discussion were analysed in detail to identify common themes and observations, to clarify areas of similarity and difference from respondent to respondent and from place to place, and to highlight implications for facilitating access to services.

  • Consultation with relevant Health Department personnel in the States and Territories.
    Interviews with Health Department personnel were recorded and analysed in similar fashion to the consultations conducted during the field visits.

  • Consultation with a number of other organisations or individuals identified as key stakeholders, including the Australian Injecting and Illicit Drug Users League (AIVL) and State/Territory drug user organisations, National Aboriginal Community Controlled Health Organisation (NACCHO) and its State/Territory affiliates, the Australian Drug and Alcohol Council (ADAC), and the National Drug Research Institute (NDRI) in Perth.

  • A review of relevant literature.
    The literature review focused primarily on Australian material that was of direct, practical relevance to the objectives of the study17. Several key reports dealing with Indigenous drug use and the characteristics, needs and preferences of Indigenous IDUs in various parts of Australia were considered – for example:

    • Gray and others, The Harm Reduction Needs of Aboriginal People who Inject Drugs, 2001 (based on research in Perth and four regional centres in WA)

    • ADAC (SA) Inc, Responding to the Needs of Indigenous People who Inject Drugs, 2003 (based on research in Adelaide)

    • Aboriginal Health and Medical Research Council and Mandala Consulting, Increasing Access to Services in NSW for Aboriginal People at Risk of Contracting or who Have Blood Borne Infections, 2004

    • National Centre for Epidemiology and Population health, ANU, 'I want to be Heard' – An Analysis of Needs of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Illegal Drug Users in the ACT and Region for Treatment and Other Services, 2004

    • Coupland and others (Australian Federation of AIDS Organisations), 'Something is Going to Get Us' – a Consultation and Development Project for a National Campaign Addressing Injecting Drug Use in Indigenous Communities, draft, 2005 (based on national consultation).
The findings of the literature review are set out in Appendix C, and are summarised at the beginning of section 2 of the report.


16 See footnote 2
17 Since searches revealed only limited overseas literature directly relevant to the study, a systematic review of overseas material was not undertaken. However, various references to overseas literature appear where relevant in later sections of this report.