This week I was able to attend the signing and launch of the new South Australian Aboriginal Health Research Accord. With the support of the Elders Council of SA, the Aboriginal Health Council of SA, SAHMRI and the three SA universities, this Accord marks the beginning of a new era for the conduct of Aboriginal Health Research in South Australia.
Prof Annette Braunack-Mayer
Head of the School of Population Health
The following speech was given by Prof Rick Russell, the University of Adelaide’s signatory at the signing and launch. (Tuesday 2nd September, 2014)
Improving Aboriginal health and wellbeing is the greatest challenge that Australia faces. Although the health of Aboriginal South Australians is improving, with improvements in total mortality, infant mortality, and increases in Indigenous primary health care and allied health care services, we still have a long way to go. Aboriginal South Australians are still more likely to be hospitalised (particularly for assault, suicide and transport accidents), have less access to antenatal care in the first trimester, and experience ongoing barriers to culturally appropriate health care services for women.
Research can make a difference to the health of Aboriginal South Australians. At the University of Adelaide we know this; we have a long tradition of research and scholarship in Aboriginal health, carried out with the intent of improving the health and well-being of Aboriginal communities.
But, we also know that we have not always done Aboriginal health research the right way. We have not always aligned our research topics with Aboriginal community priorities; we have not always involved Aboriginal people in research design and conduct; we have not routinely demonstrated the respect that Aboriginal ways of knowing deserve or communicated in culturally acceptable ways.
In signing this accord, we commit to doing research in a different way. We have begun to take little steps in the right direction. For example, we have had an Indigenous Health Unit, Yaitya Purruna, since 2000. More recently, through the leadership of our Dean of Indigenous Education, Professor Iribinna Rigney, the Tarrkarri Tirrka (our new Integrated Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Education Strategy) includes an array of targets to develop and enhance Aboriginal research across the University and increase the number of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander researchers. We have embarked on an exciting Centre for Research Excellence in prevention of chronic diseases, led by Prof Alex Brown, and in partnership with the Schools of Population Health and Translational Health Science.
However, we also know that we have a long way to go. This document will be immensely helpful to our researchers as we learn to do things differently. We have a wonderful opportunity, through this Accord, to learn from our Aboriginal colleagues and to build research partnerships and activities which are respectful and productive for all of us. We congratulate Wardliparingga on leading the development of this Accord and look forward to a new era of working together.