That’s the view of Liam Harte – a former paramedic and Dunghutti man -  who has commenced work at the University of Sydney in a position supported by Sydney Health Partners and Maridulu Budyari Gumal (SPHERE) to shape the future of Indigenous research in Sydney ahead of an expected increase to Indigenous health research funding.

He is currently scoping Indigenous health and wellbeing research happening across the Sydney basin in order to understand the current landscape, identify areas of opportunity and create a set of guidelines around conducting culturally-appropriate and community-engaged research.

There remains a well-recognised health gap between Indigenous and non-Indigenous Australians. The average Indigenous Australian will die ten years younger and suffer 2.3 times the burden of disease. 

Responding to this, the Federal Government has committed to provide $160 million in funding over the next 10 years for a national research program to improve the health of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people, through practical and innovative research into the best approaches to prevention, early intervention, and treatment of health conditions of greatest concern to Indigenous communities. 

In anticipation of this funding, Harte, along with Professor Auntie Kerry Doyle, Co-Chair and Research Lead for the Aboriginal Health and Wellbeing Clinical Academic Group, and Professor Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Health, School of Medicine at Western Sydney University, have been investigating what research and programs are currently taking place in Sydney, and what level of Indigenous involvement they have.

“We want to understand the current state of Indigenous health research so we can guide future research to be community-led and effective,” says Harte.

The results will then be made publicly available, providing academic and Indigenous communities with oversight on what research and programs are active, where collaboration opportunities exist, and, most importantly, what’s working.

“We want to make sure current and future research is being done in a way that makes a difference to communities by letting Aboriginal people guide the research and programs that are being implemented, then sharing the best practice amongst local health districts, communities and researchers.” said Harte.

“Only when we work together can we achieve real traction in improving health outcomes for Indigenous people.”

Harte has been working within the Office of the Deputy Vice-Chancellor (Indigenous Strategy and Services) at the University of Sydney to support the University’s Indigenous Strategy and ensure all Indigenous health research is driven by, and done in service of, community. 

The next steps for the project will be to produce Indigenous health research protocols tailored for the Sydney basin. They will include ethical and cultural guidelines that should be considered by researchers when undertaking projects with community and will expand on existing general protocols with information localised to Indigenous communities within the Sydney basin.