Microbiome research with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander families

A bright and colourful animation created for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander families is delivering important health messaging about what is microbiome.

The animation that runs for three minutes will help research that aims to improve health outcomes for Australia’s First Peoples.

Dr Sharon Huebner, a Senior Research Fellow in the Indigenous Studies Unit within the Faculty of Medicine, Dentistry and Health Sciences, engaged with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander families from Queensland and Victoria to talk about digital learning tools important for free, prior and informed consent processes.

The animation will support participating families to understand what is microbiome and to use this knowledge for developing culturally appropriate consent processes and research outcomes.

"The culturally safe digital learning tool was designed for audiences of different ages," said Dr Huebner.

"The animation allows participants to feel confident about the information that’s being shared by researchers, and to share this knowledge with each other, particularly when they’re being asked for consent."

Important to the animation has been the collaboration between Dr Huebner and Professor Len Harrison from the Walter and Eliza Hall Institute.

Together these researchers worked on creating a script for the animation that was scientifically accurate yet accessible to audiences without knowledge of human microbiome.

Professor Harrison says that researchers are still learning about human microbiome.

He says that, “With each new piece of research, we realise the full potential of what microbiome can show us. Already we know that microbiome contains 200 times more the number of genes than in your human genome (genes). Such discoveries are critical for driving knowledge about the human body.”

The animation is bright, fun and uses plain language that is easily understood by multiple generations of a family – children, parents and grandparents.

Engaging with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander families throughout Australia in microbiome research, the animation will be recorded in the languages of the local community.

"The idea is that in the future the animation can be narrated in languages, other than English, which is important for communities where English is the second or third language," said Dr Huebner.