Monash Bioethics Review

, Volume 33, Issue 2–3, pp 203–209 | Cite as

Genomics in research and health care with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples

  • Rebekah McWhirterEmail author
  • Dianne Nicol
  • Julian Savulescu
Original Article


Genomics is increasingly becoming an integral component of health research and clinical care. The perceived difficulties associated with genetic research involving Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people mean that they have largely been excluded as research participants. This limits the applicability of research findings for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander patients. Emergent use of genomic technologies and personalised medicine therefore risk contributing to an increase in existing health disparities unless urgent action is taken. To allow the potential benefits of genomics to be more equitably distributed, and minimise potential harms, we recommend five actions: (1) ensure diversity of participants by implementing appropriate protocols at the study design stage; (2) target diseases that disproportionately affect disadvantaged groups; (3) prioritise capacity building to promote Indigenous leadership across research professions; (4) develop resources for consenting patients or participants from different cultural and linguistic backgrounds; and (5) integrate awareness of issues relating to Indigenous people into the governance structures, formal reviews, data collection protocols and analytical pipelines of health services and research projects.


Genomics Personalised medicine Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people Indigenous health Genetic research 


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Copyright information

© Monash University 2015

Authors and Affiliations

  • Rebekah McWhirter
    • 1
    • 2
    Email author
  • Dianne Nicol
    • 2
  • Julian Savulescu
    • 3
  1. 1.Menzies Institute for Medical ResearchUniversity of TasmaniaHobartAustralia
  2. 2.Faculty of Law, Centre for Law and GeneticsUniversity of TasmaniaHobartAustralia
  3. 3.Faculty of Philosophy, Oxford Uehiro Centre for Practical EthicsUniversity of OxfordOxfordUK

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