Traditional owner participation in genetic research: a researcher perspective

Craig Muller, Joe Dortch

Research output: Chapter in Book/Conference paperChapterpeer-review


Publication of the first Australian genome in 2011 indicated the considerable age of Australian lineages and kindled widespread interest among Aboriginal communities in genetics research. With the encouragement of Traditional Owners representing the Goldfields region of Western Australia, we consulted other Aboriginal communities about conducting genetics research to complement Aboriginal and archaeological accounts of the first people in Australia, eventually contributing to new interpretations (Malaspinas et al. 2016). We developed protocols for negotiating free and prior informed consent, produced plain English project outlines, consulted communities about their concerns, and engaged community members in research design. Contentious issues encountered derive largely from the research context in Australia, including: (1) past abuses of genetic research; (2) the remnant colonialist components of contemporary politics and economy; (3) the politicisation of the distant past; and (4) contested research outcomes, particularly differences between researchers and Aboriginal peoples in their respective explanations for human origins in Australia. Despite differing world views, communities and researchers share a deep interest in genetic history. Acknowledging our differences and avoiding the privileging of one view over another in our consultations, we found common ground in the investigation of regional population histories and the continuing relationships between language groups.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationInterrogating Human Origins
Subtitle of host publicationDecolonisation and the Deep Human Past
EditorsMartin Porr, Jacqueline M. Matthews
Place of PublicationUK
Number of pages16
ISBN (Electronic)9780203731659
ISBN (Print)9781138300415, 9781138300439
Publication statusPublished - 2020

Publication series

NameArchaeological Orientations


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