NMA Scheme

The National Mutual Acceptance (NMA) Scheme currently operates in QLD, NSW, VIC, SA, WA and the ACT.

National Mutual Acceptance (NMA) Scheme is a national agreement for mutual acceptance of a single scientific and ethical review for multi-centre human research conducted in publicly funded health services across all Australian states and territories.

Northern Territory and Tasmania are the most recent jurisdictions to join NMA.

Further information and resources

The scope of NMA includes any form of human research as defined in the latest version of the National Statement on Ethical Conduct in Human Research (National Health and Medical Research Council) for which an application must be made to a Human Research Ethics Committee for the purpose of being conducted at a public health organisation.

For more information about NMA, The NMA Brochure, NMA Fact Sheet and NMA Standard Principles for Operation provide detailed information; all are available in Downloads below.

NMA Background

The ACT Health Certified HREC Exemption process was introduced on 5 Jan 2016 and was designed to bring the benefits of NMA to ACT Health researchers. In line with its obligations under the National Statement chapter 5.3 (minimising duplication of ethical review) ACT Health HREC agreed to accept ethical responsibility for the conduct of these projects on the basis of the certified HREC review and approval. These arrangements were reviewed and approved by the legal unit and ACT Health insurer. Exemption applies to multisite projects excluded from NMA due to the 1 August 2016 start date agreed by NMA jurisdictions. 

Under the National Mutual Acceptance Scheme a multi-centre human research project is reviewed for ethical and scientific merit once only. There are a number of jurisdictional specific exclusions to NMA, for the ACT these include, but are not limited to:

  • Phase 0 and phase I clinical trial application will be subject to review processes determined by ACT Health HREC
  • Projects involving persons in custody in the ACT and/or staff of ACT Justice Health
  • Studies in, or concerning the ACT and any of the following:
    • The experience of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people is an explicit focus of all or part of the research;
    • Data collection explicitly directed at Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people;
    • Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people, as a group, are to be examined in the results;
    • The information has an impact on one or more Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities; or
    • Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander health funds are a source of funding.
  • Studies involving persons in custody, staff of justice health services or access to
  • Studies accessing coronial material

Application Submission Process

Applications made through the NMA system must be submitted to research.governance@act.gov.au. Please see Site Governance for further details on submission requirements.

Data Linkage Studies

The NMA scheme has been revised to include multi-jurisdiction data linkage studies. Researchers undertaking studies involving linkage of data across participating NMA jurisdictions can apply for ethical review through a number of specialist NMA HRECs. The ethical and scientific approval of these HRECs will be accepted by participating NMA jurisdictions in accordance with standard NMA approval processes.

As with all NMA HREC applications, data linkage projects will need to undergo any local research governance processes that may apply including the endorsement of relevant local data custodians.

Refer to the NMA – data linkage guide for specialist NMA HRECs and further information.

Research with NMA exemption

Where a multi-centre project has approval from an HREC with certification appropriate for the research area, and where ACT Health or Canberra Health Services sites are  named as participating sites on the approval notification, there is no requirement for researchers to make a submission to the ACT Health HREC.

However, the research must still meet all of the site governance requirements. Research must not commence without appropriate authorisation.

Streamlined Processes within the ACT

ACT Health HREC has agreements in place with Calvary Public Hospital Bruce*, the University of Canberra (UC) and Australian National University (ANU) HRECs to facilitate streamlined ethical approval processes for research projects that are defined as ‘cross-institutional’.

Where a researcher or student researcher proposes a project that would include staff, facilities or resources of ACT Health and one, two or all of the other institutions, an application should first be submitted to the ACT Health HREC or Low Risk Sub-Committee.

Applications will be reviewed and approved first by ACT Health and then submitted for expedited review through Calvary or the relevant university HREC.

Applications should be submitted through the REGIS platform. Participant information sheets (PIS) should follow the ACT Health standard^ and include contact details for the ACT Health HREC.

*For Calvary Public Hospital Bruce, this process applies to the low risk projects only.

^Each site will incorporate its institutional PIS requirements through its site governance processes.

Further details of the streamlined process are contained in the institutional agreements.

Queries may be directed to the HREC secretariat offices of the relevant institution.

Page last updated on: 5 Dec 2022