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Mr Simon Pockley
60 Bridge Street
Northcote Vic 3070
University Secretariat
RMIT - City campus
GPO Box 2476V Vic. 3001
10th December 1997

Dear Mr Pockley,

PhD Project and Aboriginal Material

I received a copy of a memorandum from the University Solicitor to the Higher Degrees Committee concerning work which you are undertaking towards your PhD. I gather this project may involve the publication of aboriginal secret and sacred materials on the worldwide web and that you are close to finalising it.

It appeared that you had not sought approval of the RMIT Human Research Ethics Committee. As the Committee was meeting on 26th November, I sought advice of them concerning the situation.

The Committee felt that it did not have the information to appraise whether ethical issues relating to this project were appropriately addressed. Members were concerned, however, that research at RMIT should be in accordance with relevant ethical guidelines.

The Committee believes that you ought to have sought approval of this proposal before embarking on the project. The Committee wished me to draw your attention to the Guidelines on Ethical Matters in Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Health Research and, in particular, to the section relating to the Ownership and Publication of Data (A copy of these guidelines is enclosed). While acknowleding that it could not appraise the situation without further information, the Committee considers RMIT should not be associated with a project which had not obtained ethical approval in circumstances where it acknowleged that the publication of the project might cause distress or give offence to some people who may have a legitimate interest in preserving their secret and sacred material.

Please could you send to me for the Committee to consider:

an outline of your work and how you propose to publish it, a general description of the aboriginal secret and sacred material, and details of the way in which you have sought to comply with the guidelines on ethical matters in aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander research relating to ownership and publication of data.

Yours sincerely

Adrienne Patterson

RMIT Human Research Ethics Committee

(CC) reserved S.Pockley Feb 1995: The Flight of Ducks 836