The NHMRC is committed to improving the health of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples. This commitment covers all aspects of the NHMRC's mandate: support for health and medical research, fostering health and medical research ethics and fostering the development of consistent health standards.
NHMRC's commitment is being implemented through a strategic approach based on priorities identified by Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people and delivered within the context of a whole-of-government approach to Indigenous affairs.
NHMRC's activities have been guided by an extensive nation-wide consultative process conducted by the Research Agenda Working Group (RAWG) in 2002 in partnership with the Office of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Health (OATSIH).
The RAWG process resulted in the development and adoption of the NHMRC Road Map: A strategic Framework for improving Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander health through research (commonly referred to as The NHMRC Road Map) and the Final Report of Community Consultations on the NHMRC Road Map.
At its 144th Session in October 2002, the NHMRC's Council agreed to adopt Indigenous health research as a strategic priority and to implement The NHMRC Road Map. Council also made a commitment to allocate at least 5% of its future research budget to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander health. The Minister for Health and Ageing endorsed this approach and specific objectives and performance measures were set out in the NHMRC Strategic Plan 2003 , 2006.
The NHMRC introduced a number of structural changes to support the implementation of the Strategic Plan. These were appointing Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander individuals to the Council and NHMRC Principal and Working Committees and establishing the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Health Forum (Forum) and the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Health Research Working Committee. In 2007 these committees were restructured to form a single Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Health and Research Advisory Committee to provide high level advice on Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander health and research activities to the Chief Executive Officer.
The NHMRC is also collaborating with its partner agencies in New Zealand and Canada to advance Indigenous health research internationally. The Tripartite Agreement, signed in April 2002, is a five year undertaking involving the Canadian Institutes of Health Research (CIHR), the Health Research Council of New Zealand (HRC) and the NHMRC.
In entering into the Agreement, the Partner Agencies recognised the disparities in health between Indigenous and non-Indigenous peoples in their respective countries; and the desire of Indigenous peoples for research to be undertaken on terms acceptable to them. The purpose of the agreement is, inter alia, to:
Support research in the area of Indigenous peoples' health, with the goal of improving the health of Indigenous peoples in these three countries;
Build upon existing networks of researchers;
Enable information sharing;
Develop innovative research partnerships; and
Promote effective and sustainable translation of research findings
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