To conduct research in Australia it is a requirement that you obtain approval from an NHMRC certified Human Research Ethics Committee (HREC). The HREC reviews the studies ethical acceptability. The National Statement on Ethical Conduct in Human Research (2007) defines human research as follows:

“Human research is conducted with or about people, or their data or tissue. Human participation in research is therefore to be understood broadly, to include the involvement of human beings through:

  • taking part in surveys, interviews or focus groups
  • undergoing psychological, physiological or medical testing or treatment
  • being observed by researchers
  • researchers having access to their personal documents or other materials
  • the collection and use of their body organs, tissues or fluids (e.g. skin, blood, urine, saliva, hair, bones, tumour and other biopsy specimens) or their exhaled breath
  • access to their information (in individually identifiable, re-identifiable or non-identifiable form) as part of an existing published or unpublished source or database.”

It is important to note that this includes research that the participants themselves are not aware of. An understanding of the levels of risk defined by the National Statement will help you to assess if your proposal requires ethical approval. If you have ethics approval this does not mean that you can commence your study at a NSW Public Health Organisation, in order for you to begin your research at such organisation you must complete a site specific application for Research Governance.