Approach to impact—Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Research
In the six impact studies that received a high rating for approach to impact, universities described using Indigenous-led principles as well as multiple strategies and activities to support the translation of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander research into impacts. Some of the key themes present in these approach to impact examples were:
- leadership and governance
- partnerships and communication
- institutional investment, infrastructure and support.
Leadership and governance
Some of the highly rated studies described the ways in which Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander research was led, governed, owned and driven by the community with culture and collaboration at the centre. In doing so, universities described their role in bringing together a set of principles, practices and methods that honoured Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander voices and knowledge, and empowered individuals, their families and communities to identify issues and find solutions.
One example framed the whole approach to research concerning Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people and communities by requiring projects to address four main questions:
- How will the project benefit the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander community?
- How will the project support Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander community leaders?
- How will the project build capacity in the community?
- How can the institution’s and other resources be deployed to do the work the community needs?
Other universities used various strategic, leadership and governance models to support the translation of research including:
- appointing senior Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people in governance and human resources roles to have a voice in strategic discussions
- supporting senior Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander researchers to take up board positions in the industries of their respective fields to facilitate wider impact within industry
- establishing advisory councils to include representatives from stakeholder groups
- using strategic plans to set a culture of respectful ways of working with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people and making outcomes accountable through reporting
- building the capacity of the next generation of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander research leaders to continue meaningful community engagement and generate research impacts into the future.
Partnerships and communication
Many high rated impact studies described their university partnerships with a variety of stakeholders including Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people or groups, non-Government organisations and governments. There was a diverse range of partnerships and communication strategies described. In addition:
- Most partnerships were facilitated through a formal agreement which was described as providing a shared vision of the project and setting clear expectations of each partner. These arrangements were sometimes coupled with the employment of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people on research projects and provision of training. Other examples highlighted that Elders and community members on research projects gave the community an empowered voice for co-design and feedback throughout the research and impact processes.
- Long-term partnerships were being highlighted as a way to develop relationships of trust. One example described that consultation took two years or longer to develop relationships with communities to determine the most suitable impact or benefit. It was noted in many studies that relationships with industry, non-Government and government organisations also required significant time to develop.
- The need for communication and media that was appropriate to the partner was indicated as being an important aspect of the approach to impact. Some universities developed a variety of resources including film and digital content that were accessible to relevant professional groups, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities and members of the public. Some universities also used Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander artwork and films, some in first languages, to communicate important messages or deliver training. Others supported Elders to disseminate information to their communities as was culturally appropriate.
- Training and capability development was described as another key platform for engaging with research end-users. Through forums such as conferences, workshops and communities of practice, universities described how they engaged with professional groups sharing the latest evidence which impacted practice. Other capability development involved providing cultural awareness training to non-Indigenous people in institutional and professional settings.
Institutional investment, infrastructure and support
Many universities described how they provided an array of infrastructure, administrative and financial support for the translation of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander research into impact. Examples included:
- The financial support provided by universities. This ranged from release time for researchers to engage with communities or to participate in industry board appointments to employing Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people on the research project.
- The provision of infrastructure to facilitate interactions with research end-users. In one case, a community consultation room was developed for end-users to interact in a comfortable setting with researchers. In other cases, universities invested in the development of databases to facilitate sharing of knowledge between researchers and research end-users for professional or public use.
- The wide range of administrative support provided by universities. The most common of these were universities providing legal expertise to negotiate partnership agreements, assistance with communications such as developing web content and organising conferences, and flexibility for researchers to conduct their research in ways that empowered and supported the community, allowing time for communication.
- The development of the next generation of researchers in order to continue meaningful connections and respectful ways of working with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities. Universities described how the capacity building of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander students and researchers as well as non-Indigenous researchers would not have occurred without institutional support.