The Australian government's Healthy for Life program is supporting capacity development in Indigenous primary care using continuous quality improvement (CQI) techniques. An important influence on the Healthy for Life program has been the ABCD research project. The key features contributing to the success of the project are described. The ABCD research project: uses a CQI approach, with an ongoing cycle of gathering data on how well organisational systems are functioning, and developing and then implementing improvements; is guided by widely accepted principles of community-based research, which emphasise participation; and adheres to the principles and values of Indigenous health research and service delivery. The potential for improving health outcomes in Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities using a CQI approach should be strengthened by clear clinical and managerial leadership, supporting service organisations at the community level, and applying participatory-action principles.