National frameworks to guide universities on the ethical conduct of Indigenous research have emerged from a troubling history of ethically dubious inquiry in Australia. Although the development of such frameworks is commendable, we contend that institutionalizing them can have unintended unethical consequences. Through five personal vignettes, we share some of our research experiences where university ethics processes have resulted in neopaternalist, disrespectful, and therefore also unethical situations. These vignettes paint a picture of the challenges that arise when bureaucratic, neoliberal systems of legal accountability interact with systems of Indigenous custom, knowledge, and expectation. We argue that a greater focus on Indigenous knowledges in institutional frameworks would lead to more appropriate research behavior, better research outcomes, and fewer unethical situations.

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