Research Process

The Kimberley Research Subcommittee aims to work constructively with prospective researchers to assist them to get the best possible local input and advice in developing proposals. This is a research review committee, not an ethics committee.

Ideally, the Subcommittee will be informed about research projects early in the development phase and prior to ethics approval being applied for.

A review of the Subcommittee has highlighted that the region is currently overwhelmed with projects from researches who are not based in the Kimberley. Therefore the Subcommittee requests that:

  • If you are based outside the Kimberley, you consider undertaking the research in another region
  • As the time that Subcommittee members volunteer is limited, we request that you talk to us early in the development phase of your project
  • Researchers should allow for at least 3 months for local consultation and involvement in developing your project

For advice contact:
Associate Professor Julia Marley
Chair, KAHPF Kimberley Research Subcommittee

08 9194 3200

or Emma Carlin and Erica Spry for administrative enquires.


Health related research frequently requires the use of information based on individuals and therefore usually requires consideration by an ethics committee to protect the rights of the people involved. Projects related to health that are classified as research carried out in the Kimberley must have ethics approval from a suitable institutional ethics committee (for example a duly constituted University or Tertiary Hospital ethics committee).

Where research is focused on Aboriginal people, or Aboriginal people are a significant component of the participants, then approval from a suitable Aboriginal health ethics committee is required in addition to standard institutional ethics committee approval. Currently the only suitable Aboriginal health ethics committee in WA is the WA Aboriginal Health Ethics Committee (WAAHEC) which has a secretariat within the Aboriginal Health Council of Western Australia.

The Guidelines for Ethical Conduct in Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Health, the NHMRC Darwin criteria and other relevant articles and guides regarding Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Health research consider as essential the consultation with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples who represent the research population, in the planning, design, implementation, analysis and dissemination of findings. See NHMRC website for more detail.

An important element of any project in the Kimberley is the training and development of Aboriginal and / or Torres Strait Islander chief investigators and researchers throughout the project period, as well as the opportunity for feedback gathered from individuals and communities to influence the ongoing nature and implementation of the project.

Please note that it can take several months for ethics approval to be granted.

Research versus Quality Assurance / Evaluation / Clinical Audit

Many of the questions we want to answer to improve health services in the Kimberley are considered to be quality assurance (QA) / evaluation / clinical audits. NHMRC guidelines state that “attempts to clearly separate quality assurance from research are difficult, and can be artificial and unhelpful”, however requirements for ethics approval do vary depending on where projects are in this continuum between QA and specific research projects.

Projects that require formal ethics approval usually involve either:

  • collecting information about individuals specifically for the purposes of undertaking research; and / or
  • the use of information already collected concerning individuals for a purpose other than the purpose for which it was collected

If you are unsure if your project is quality assurance / evaluation / audit OR if you want to publish the results of your audit outside the organisation then you should contact a duly constituted ethics committee to determine if formal ethics approval is required before the project commences.

The process of applying for exemption from ethics approval is usually completed in a few weeks. If formal ethics approval is not required then the ethics committee will provide a letter stating that the project as described is considered to be an audit and formal ethics approval is not required. If this process is followed then results of a QA or clinical audit project may be published in peer reviewed publications.

Subcommittee Processes

Anyone wanting to undertake health research or evaluations in the Kimberley region should complete the Subcommittee’s research project form. Researchers are to email the form as a word document to Emma Carlin and Erica Spry as well as Please note that due to a lack of administrative assistance there are delays to processing projects that come to the Subcommittee.

The Chair and Secretariat will make an initial decision on whether a project is research or quality assurance / evaluation / clinical audit. However, the final decision on this remains with an institutional ethics committee.

If the project is classified as an internal evaluation then the proposal will be forwarded to the Subcommittee by email so that members are aware of what is happening in the region. Responses will not be required from members. If a member has any comments to make, these will be forwarded to the researcher. The Subcommittee requests that the researcher informs the Subcommittee on the outcomes of the evaluation / audit.

If the project is classified as research or external evaluation, then the proposal will be circulated to the Subcommittee by email for suggestions and comment. People with expertise in the area of the project may also be contacted on an ad hoc basis and asked to provide advice / comments. Researchers may also be directed to individual Subcommittee members if the member wishes to further discuss particular aspects of the research proposal.

There are no deadlines for submission of the project form as all discussions are held out of session via email. The subcommittee aims to have a turn around time of three weeks. However there may be delays due to requests for further information or when the Subcommittee becomes inundated with projects. If you have previously carried out research in the region, the Subcommittee requests that you provide information on the outcomes of the project (eg details of any implementation into policy and practice, problems encountered, complaints about the project).

The subcommittee may offer support for the project only if specified conditions are adhered to.

If concerns about a particular project arise which can not be resolved through the process outlined above, the matter will be referred to the next Subcommittee meeting for discussion. If after discussion with the researcher there are still significant issues that cannot be resolved then the Subcommittee will inform WAAHEC, other relevant ethics committees and Kimberley service providers about these concerns. However the final decision on ethics approval remains with the designated ethics committees.

The Subcommittee does not provide formal letters of support. All “formal” communication is carried out by email. The Secretariat of WAAHEC will be copied into the final response from the Subcommittee to the researcher.

The Subcommittee requests that researchers provide annual ½ page progress reports (due 30 June each year) and a final detailed report once the project has finished. Researchers are requested to return the form by email. The form will then be circulated by email to the Subcommittee.

The summary section of the Subcommittee’s research project form for each project will be made publicly available on this website.