Background: The consent and community engagement process for research with Indigenous communities is rarely evaluated. Research protocols are not always collaborative, inclusive or culturally respectful. If participants do not trust or understand the research, selection bias may occur in recruitment, affecting study results potentially denying participants the opportunity to provide more knowledge and greater understanding about their community. Poorly informed consent can also harm the individual participant and the community as a whole.
Methods: Invited by local Aboriginal community leaders of the Fitzroy Valley, the Kimberley, Western Australia, The Picture Talk project explores the consent process for research. Focus groups of Aboriginal community members were conducted to establish preferences for methods of seeking individual consent. Transcripts were analysed through NVivo10 Qualitative software using grounded theory with inductive and deductive coding. Themes were synthesised with quotes highlighted.
Results: Focus groups with Aboriginal community members (n = 6 focus groups of 3-7 participants) were facilitated by a Community Navigator as a cultural guide and interpreter and a researcher. Participants were recruited from all main language groups of the Fitzroy Valley - Gooniyandi, Walmajarri, Wangkatjungka, Bunuba and Nikinya. Participants were aged ≥18 years, with 5 female groups and one male group. Themes identified include: Reputation and trust is essential; The Community Navigator is key; Pictures give the words meaning - milli milli versus Pictures; Achieving consensus in circles; Signing for consent; and Research is needed in the Valley.
Conclusion: Aboriginal communities of the Fitzroy Valley recommend that researchers collaborate with local leaders, develop trust and foster a good reputation in the community prior to research. Local Aboriginal researchers should be employed to provide cultural guidance throughout the research process and interpret local languages especially for elders. Pictures are preferred to written text to explain research information and most prefer to sign for consent. The Fitzroy Valley welcomes research when collaborative and for the benefit of the community. Future research could include exploring how to support young people, promote health screening and improve understanding of medical knowledge.