Ethical Protocol for evaluation in Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander settings

This Ethical Protocol contains a set of ethical principles to hear and privilege the voice of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples in monitoring and evaluation that involves them or impacts on them.


This document will be revised over time based on our experience using it and also based on experience from similar initiatives.

Last updated 15 August, 2019

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The protocol is principles-based and offers the flexibility to be applied across various contexts, evaluation methods and approaches. Application of the principles demonstrates rigour and is essential for credibility within evaluation processes.

Article 3 of the Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples states ‘Indigenous peoples have the right to self-determination. By virtue of that right they freely determine their political status and freely pursue their economic, social and cultural development’ (UN 2007).

The ethical protocol prioritises self-determination and reinforces the inherent human rights of our people. The Guide offers information about the practical application of the principles at every stage of a monitoring and evaluation task or process.

Evaluation is a process of change rather than an endpoint and the ethical protocol provides principles and practical suggestions for improving the benefits of evaluation to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Peoples. This can be done through the following pathway:

The ethical protocol provides principles and guidance on how to respect the elders, cultural knowledge, and lands and seas of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Peoples. It provides a tool to frame and design an ethical approach to apply throughout all stages of monitoring and evaluation tasks and processes.

Key themes of the ethical protocol for evaluation in Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander settings

The principles for each theme and how to apply them are further detailed below. The themes are represented in a circle to illustrate a holistic approach to ethical evaluation practice – all themes are equally important. The visual representation can be used as a tool to ensure a high ethical standard is included in the design and execution of any monitoring and evaluation activity; each theme must be addressed at every stage of the M&E process. It is also a communication tool that can be used to illustrate to participants the ethical standards that will be adhered to within the monitoring and evaluation activity.

Overcoming barriers to ethical practice in evaluation in Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander settings

The following barriers to ethical practice in evaluations (depicted in the outer ring) have been identified by evaluators and communities. Adherence to the framework, along with courage, integrity and cultural humility, will assist with overcoming these barriers.

Prioritise self-determination, community agency and self-governance Select each theme to understand what to do in practice Key themes Barriers Limited scope from commissioner Power and privilege Limited cultural understanding Can’t find community protocols Time restrictions No cultural mentor No tools or templates Data gate keeping Resource constraints Communicate transparently, build trust and obtain individual and community consent Strengths-based recognition of cultures, acknowledging communities and individuals Share benefits and apply two-way learning Formalise accountability processes on ethical practice Facilitate control and data sovereignty COURAGE, INTEGRITY, & CULTURAL HUMILITY

Note: Over time, further detail about the barriers may be provided and additional barriers may be identified. These may be depicted in multiple outer rings with the inner ring being those that are more easily addressed/influenced and the outer ring that are more difficult to influence.

A special thanks to this page's contributors

Belinda Gibb & Sharon Babyack (Indigenous Community Volunteers), Donna Stephens (Menzies School of Health Research), Debbie Hoger & Carol Vale (Murawin Consulting), Kate Kelleher (Kate Kelleher Consulting), Greet Peersman (BetterEvaluation)

We thank the members of the Advisory Group and the Steering Committee for their feedback and guidance.

We thank Nick Herft (UX Designer/developer) for page design and Alice Macfarlan (BE website manager) for content review and document formatting.

We would like to acknowledge and thank Maria Stephens, an Arrabi/Binning woman who speaks the Iwaidja language. She generously provided her artwork for this page.