The University of Newcastle, in collaboration with the Lowitja Institute, has secured nearly three million in federal funding to establish a fresh committee aimed to enhance the health outcomes of First Nations people.
This funding comes from the Medical Research Future Fund (MRFF) grant, which is a component of the National Critical Research Infrastructure initiative initiated by the Federal Government.
Over the course of 10 years, this initiative will allocate an amount of $650 million.
In a sector-first, national infrastructure will be established to oversee First Nations health research.
The University of Newcastle is proud to collaborate with the Lowitja Institute as they jointly spearhead the development of this innovative project, led by Wiradjuri woman and Associate Professor Michelle Kennedy, Assistant Dean for Indigenous Strategy & Leadership.
"All research involving Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples should be deemed safe and respectful by Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples," Assoc. Prof Kennedy said.
"However, there has been limited state-based infrastructure and no national infrastructure to support this."
The funding announcement follows calls for immediate investment in the space.
"This project will use a co-design process to establish the much-needed body and contribute to transformative change in Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander health," Assoc. Prof Kennedy said.
Deputy CEO of the Lowitja Institute, Paul Stewart, said the committee will work to ensure research has a community-first approach.
"The Lowitja Institute has been working for many years to ensure Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people are at the centre when it comes to national health research processes – so that research is led by, for and with our peoples," Mr Stewart said.
"We are excited to partner with the University of Newcastle to help improve health outcomes for First Nations people by streamlining culturally safe health and medical research."
The federal funding comes after the latest Productivity Commission revealed only four areas of the government's Closing the Gap on Indigenous disadvantages are on track to be met by 2031.
Federal Minister for Health, Mark Butler, said the work being done by the University of Newcastle is a step in the right direction.
"We cannot close the gap in life expectancy and health outcomes, unless we consult First Nations people about the policies – and research projects – that affect them" Mr Butler said.
"Better outcomes come through consultation, and the co-design process that the University of Newcastle will undertake in developing a dedicated First Nations ethics committee will lead to better outcomes."
Federal Member for Newcastle, Sharon Claydon, was also supportive of the trailblazing project.
"The University of Newcastle has always punched well above its weight when it comes to world-leading research and this innovative study is further proof of that," Ms Claydon said.
"I'm delighted to see our talented researchers recognised by the Medical Research Future Fund, further cementing Newcastle as the home of innovative health and medical research.
"This funding is testament to the extraordinary work of Michelle Kennedy and her team to deliver health research that's appropriate, engaging and meaningful for First Nations people."