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Culturally appropriate Aboriginal health services research impacts health policy and practice

20 April 2017

Associate Professor Angela DawsonThe Re-Focus project, funded by an Australian Research Council (ARC) Discovery Indigenous Grant, is an in-depth investigation into the use of focus group discussions (FGDs) in Aboriginal health research. The study aims to inform culturally appropriate health service planning and delivery. Preliminary interviews conducted for the research project revealed that one of the main challenges for researchers in achieving cultural appropriateness was a lack of understanding of Aboriginal knowledge and a lack of guidance on how to conduct FGDs in Aboriginal contexts. The project will evaluate the suitability and effectiveness of FGDs as a method of gathering qualitative data in the context of Aboriginal health services research.

The findings of the study will inform the development of a comprehensive, evidence-based framework for appraising, designing and undertaking FGD research in Aboriginal health service delivery contexts and identify how this research can be translated into health policy and practice. Associate Professor Angela Dawson presented the initial findings of the study at the AIATSIS National Indigenous Research Conference in Canberra in March.

The first stage of the study focusses on understanding the experiences of researchers currently employing FDGs in Aboriginal health services research. This stage also includes gaining the perspectives of policy makers on how FGD evidence is valued in decision making. Interviews with policy makers are currently in progress.

The next stage of the research will involve listening to Aboriginal voices in order to understand how data collection, analysis and dissemination of research findings have been undertaken in ways that reflect Aboriginal knowledge and culture. The final stage of the research will bring together three groups of stakeholders to engage them in a reflexive, participatory process aimed at developing practical and culturally effective guidelines and resources. These guidelines will reduce the research burden on Aboriginal people by making sure that data is collected in meaningful, consistent and efficient ways.

Associate Professor Dawson says, “Aboriginal people and their communities will benefit from this project by directing how qualitative research is conducted, and increasing community confidence in FGD research.”

The project provides new opportunities for Aboriginal research capacity building through the employment of an Aboriginal Research Project Manager and the provision of a Higher Degree Research scholarship.


Byline: Madelyn Lines