INTRODUCTION

Thank you for your interest in participating in this research project. The following pages will provide you with further information about the project, so that you can decide if you would like to take part in this research.

Please take the time to read this information carefully. You may ask questions about anything you don’t understand or want to know more about.

Your participation is voluntary. If you don’t wish to take part, you don’t have to. If you begin participating, you can also stop at any time.

WHAT IS THE RESEARCH ABOUT?

The aim of this research project is to explore how the coronavirus pandemic (COVID-19) is affecting people living in Australia, including how people are experiencing the restrictions that are in place (such as isolation and physical/social distancing). We want to understand more about the effects of COVID-19 on things such as people’s well-being, mental health, physical health, and use of services.

Participation is open to people over the age of 18 living in Australia. You do not need to be an Australian citizen or permanent resident to complete these surveys; you are eligible to participate as long as you are over the age of 18 and living in Australia during the COVID-19 pandemic. You do not have to be in isolation or quarantine, or diagnosed with COVID-19 to take part.

The data you provide will be analysed by academic researchers. Researchers in the United Kingdom and the United States of America are also conducting this study, so we can compare results between our countries.

WHAT WILL I BE ASKED TO DO?

You will be asked to complete one survey first and then we will send you a shorter survey once a week whilst this pandemic continues. You will be asked questions about yourself, your general well-being, mental and physical health, what activities you are doing, whether you are isolating, and what services you might now be using. The first survey will take approximately 20-30 minutes to complete, while the following weekly surveys will take approximately 15-25 minutes. No individual data will be reported or published.

You can complete the weekly surveys online or via pen-and-paper. The pen-and-paper ones can be sent to you by mail and returned by mail (self-addressed stamped envelopes provided) or can be done over the phone/ in person if necessary, when restrictions lift.

We will ask you for an email address (or home address for pen-and-paper questionnaires) so that we can contact you for the follow-up surveys. However, your address will be removed from the rest of the answers you give before any analysis takes place and will be deleted as soon as the study finishes. Your email or home address will not be passed to any third parties.

If you are completing the surveys online, you can opt out of taking part in future surveys at any point by simply ignoring the follow-up invitation. You will then automatically be withdrawn from the study and you will receive no further emails. If you are completing the surveys via pen-and-paper, and you would like to opt out of future surveys, simply complete the ‘Survey Withdrawal’ form and post with the envelope provided.

We also understand that you might miss some weeks as you may be too busy or forget, or simply don’t want to do the survey. If you still want to complete follow up surveys, you can still use the link provided to you via email at any time (if you’re completing the surveys online) Again, as before, you can opt out of taking part in future surveys and further contact from us by simply ignoring the follow-up invitation. If you are completing the surveys via pen-and-paper and would like to recommence your participation, get in touch with Dr Anita Goh with the details provided below.

We appreciate any completion of surveys and will account for the time between surveys in the data analysis. The aim of this project is to collect as much data as possible on the impact of COVID-19.

At the end of the pandemic (according to the government), you will be invited to participate in a 40-minute interview about your experiences around COVID-19, which will be conducted via a platform of your choice (like the telephone, internet, or in person, if possible). This will be during a time that is convenient for you. Participation is optional.

WHAT ARE THE POSSIBLE BENEFITS?

While the research is not expected to have any direct benefits for you, contributing to the research will enhance our understanding of how the pandemic is affecting Australians. This may help us develop strategies or tools for supporting the wellbeing of adult Australians following the pandemic.

WHAT ARE THE POSSIBLE RISKS?

Discussing some of your experiences during COVID-19 may be distressing. Should you suffer any distress or complications as a result of this research project, we encourage you to seek help. We will assist you in this process by providing a resource sheet that lists free and easily accessible support bereavement services. This includes online, face-to-face and telephone services offered by the Australian Centre for Grief and Bereavement, Beyond Blue, GriefLine and Lifeline. Any counselling or support will be provided free of charge by qualified staff who are not members of the research project team. Should you become distressed at any point, even after your study participation is completed, we strongly encourage you to seek help by contacting any of the support services listed on the resource sheet. Additionally, you are free to withdraw from the research at any time, with no penalty, should you no longer wish to participate.

DO I HAVE TO TAKE PART?

No. Participation is completely voluntary. You are able to withdraw at any time. You can opt out of taking part in future surveys at any point by simply ignoring the follow-up invitation. You will then automatically be withdrawn from the study.

WILL I HEAR ABOUT THE RESULTS OF THIS PROJECT?

Updates will be publicly available to access via this link: https://www.marchnetwork.org/research. You will also be given the option to request a summary of the results when available, and at the conclusion of the research. Anonymous information collected in this research will also be published widely.

WHAT WILL HAPPEN TO INFORMATION ABOUT ME?

Any information collected will remain completely confidential. To protect your privacy, we will remove any identifying information (called de-identification) before comparing with participants from the United Kingdom and from the United States of America.

Hardcopy data will be stored in a locked filing cabinet at the National Ageing Research Institute. Hardcopy data will be stored for five years after the final publication of the project, and will then be destroyed in compliance with standard academic practice. Electronic data will be stored on an encrypted online database, which only approved researchers can access. De-identified electronic data will be stored indefinitely.

Your participation is completely voluntary and you can choose to stop participating at any time.

Your de-identified data will be analysed by researchers and findings will be published in scientific papers and used to inform advice given during COVID-19. Nobody will be able to identify you from the de-identified data we analyse or from any publications.

WHERE CAN I GET FURTHER INFORMATION?

If you would like more information about the project, please contact the lead researcher, Dr Anita Goh Tel: +61 3 83872377 Email: A.Goh@nari.edu.au

WHO CAN I CONTACT IF I HAVE ANY CONCERNS ABOUT THE PROJECT?

This research project has been approved by the Human Research Ethics Committee of The University of Melbourne. If you have any concerns or complaints about the conduct of this research project, which you do not wish to discuss with the research team, you should contact the Manager, Human Research Ethics, Research Ethics and Integrity, University of Melbourne, VIC 3010. Tel: +61 3 8344 2073 or Email: HumanEthics-complaints@unimelb.edu.au. All complaints will be treated confidentially. In any correspondence, please provide the name of the research team or the name or ethics ID number of the research project.

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