Skilling Up: Considering Ethical Issues

Year: 2015

Author: Gower, Graeme

Type of paper: Abstract refereed

The National Health and Medical Research Council (NHMRC) is the statutory authority for the development of ethical research guidelines, including those that relate specifically to Aboriginal & Torres Strait Islander people. While there have been significant revisions to both the National Statement & the Aboriginal & Torres Strait Islander guidelines, the research process and/practice may not closely follow them as they were intended for a number of reasons. The NHMRC and the literature (Dudgeon et. al., 2010; Laycott, et. al., 2011) confirm that despite researchers being able to address rule based ethics in applications, cultural insensitivities may still occur both intentionally and unintentionally. This paper presents examples of cultural insensitivities and/or ethical issues when guidelines are not closely followed. It will draw examples from research case studies and will discuss the role of Cultural Competency for developing best practice in Indigenous research. The main focus of this paper will relate to some of the ethical implications and responsibilities that have arisen when researching in the Skilling Up project. In particular it will highlight the following: obtaining consent from multiple sites, obtaining consent from afar, the wording of consent forms, the use of passive consent, methods of gaining consent, ownership issues of digital recordings and the use of digital recordings involving deceased persons. In discussing these issues, the paper will draw from a number of research case studies which the authors has been involved in. The importance of developing strong relationships and trust between the researcher and Indigenous participants will also be discussed as this is considered to be a vital aspect in meeting the responsibilities and obligations which are outlined in the NHMRC’s ethical research guidelines and achieving best practice in research. How the ‘Skilling Up’ project team have tried to navigate these complex but critical ethical spaces over the past two years will be a feature of this part of the symposium.