Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander health research

Research provides an evidence base to understand which approaches and programs best improve health outcomes for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people. We use research to work towards health equity, and we fund Indigenous-led research through various initiatives.

How we use research

Research establishes an evidence base to inform our policies, programs and services and ensure they are improving the health of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people as intended. It helps us identify what is working and what may need to change. This is a key part of the health system being accountable to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people.

We use research to:

  • understand and track Indigenous health and wellbeing trends
  • find new ways to prevent and treat disease
  • assess the impact of policies, programs and services
  • work towards health equity between Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people and other Australians
  • demonstrate how culture affects health and wellbeing outcomes for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people and communities.

More research is now being led by Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people, or is being conducted in genuine partnership with communities. This ensures that research is done in a culturally safe, informed and helpful way. The key aspects to Indigenous research are that it:

  • benefits Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people
  • is led by Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people
  • engages with the communities it aims to help
  • builds research capacity of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people and communities.

We fund a number of Indigenous health research initiatives.

Indigenous Health Research Fund

The Medical Research Future Fund’s Indigenous Health Research Fund invests in Indigenous-led research to tackle health issues facing Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people.

We list related grant opportunities on GrantConnect, and publish a list of grants awarded under this initiative.

Research funded through the IAHP

We also contribute funding to the following research institutions through the Indigenous Australians’ Health Programme (IAHP).

Lowitja Institute

The Lowitja Institute is Australia’s national institute for Indigenous health research. Its research is built on priorities identified by Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people.

We have committed funding to support the Lowitja Institute of:

  • $10 million over 3 years (2019–20 to 2021–22) to support Indigenous health research
  • $2 million per year (2019–20 to 2022–23) through the IAHP, to support the institute’s operations.

We commissioned the Lowitja Institute to do work related to cultural determinants of health and workforce between 2019 and 2021.

Other investment supports the institute to address the priority areas outlined in their strategic plan.

The National Health and Medical Research Council (NHMRC)

In 2016, we invested $3.4 million over 3 years in the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Health Research Special Initiative with the NHMRC. This initiative was for population and health services research to promote health outcomes for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people.

The special initiative funded 4 research projects, which started in 2017 and ended in 2021. These projects were:

Through the NHMRC Partnership Projects Scheme, we also funded another special initiative for fetal alcohol spectrum disorder (FASD) and obesity prevention research. This initiative aims to build evidence for both preventing and responding appropriately to FASD and obesity among Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people.

Australian National University (ANU)

Chronic diseases

We fund the ANU to develop strategies to support timely identification and management of cardiovascular risk, diabetes, and renal disease in Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people. This involves identifying mechanisms that support:

  • high levels of cardiovascular disease and chronic disease risk assessment
  • appropriate follow up
  • development of resources to help patients get involved in shared decision-making.

Smoking

The ANU is also conducting an impact and outcomes assessment of the Tackling Indigenous Smoking program (a sub-program of the IAHP). See more on evaluations.

University of Newcastle

The University of Newcastle is establishing a culturally safe program for health providers called iSISTAQUIT. This program helps health professionals provide appropriate support to pregnant Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander women who want to quit smoking.

The University of Newcastle will collect data to:

  • evaluate the process and impact outcomes
  • compare the intervention outcomes between mainstream health services and Aboriginal Community Controlled Health Services (ACCHSs).

The research includes collecting:

  • de-identified data about smoking and nicotine replacement therapy use by pregnant Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander women
  • service-level data
  • data about the effectiveness of the iSISTAQUIT smoking cessation method and impact of the training for the practitioner.
Last updated: 
30 June 2021

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