National centre to Close the Gap

19 February 2014

A new national centre for research into Indigenous health will help close the gap on Indigenous health and life expectancy.

The Prime Minister's report on Closing the Gap, released last week, found the gap in life expectancy between Indigenous and non-Indigenous people was 10.6 years for males and 9.5 years for females.

Indigenous Australians will have oversight of the new ANU body, the National Centre for Indigenous Genomics (NCIG), and will ensure the proper handling of research into samples taken from Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people between the 1960s and 1990s.

The NGIC Governance Board will be chaired by Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Social Justice commissioner Mick Gooda.

"This new centre is a watershed moment for Indigenous health research," Mr Gooda said.

"Looking at how our genes are influenced by the environment can answer some important questions for Indigenous health, like how trauma can affect health across generations.

"The National Centre will provide the framework where Indigenous people can finally get the benefits of this kind of research."

Mr Gooda will be supported by board members Professor Mick Dodson, Director of the National Centre for Indigenous Studies at ANU, Professor Ian Anderson, Director of the Murrrup Barak Centre for Indigenous Development at the University of Melbourne, and Dr Misty Jenkins, winner of the 2013 L'Oreal Women in Science Fellowship.

The Governance Board has established a Governance and Ethics Framework that provides a model for respectful engagement between Indigenous communities, the NCIG and researchers.

"The next step is to consult with Indigenous communities and those who donated samples to the collection decades ago," Mr Gooda said.

The ANU has invested half a million dollars to set up the NCIG and is now seeking to build on the initial investment for the next phase of the centre's development.

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