National Wetlands Update February 2013
Issue No. 22, February 2013
Engaging Indigenous Australians in environmental research
Amy Kimber, Tropical Rivers and Coastal Knowledge Research Hub
Researchers are collaborating with Traditional Owners and rangers across northern Australia, including at Kakadu National Park, to prepare local research agreements.
Indigenous people own and manage about a third of the landscape across northern Australia. They have detailed knowledge about the region's environment and ecological processes because their physical, social and spiritual wellbeing has been deeply connected with the land and its waterways for thousands of years.
An Indigenous Engagement Strategy has been developed to support the Northern Australia Hub of the National Environmental Research Program. This initiative builds on six years of government investment in a number of initiatives focused on improving our knowledge of northern Australia's rivers, wetlands and water resources. The largest coordinated investment has been through the Tropical Rivers and Coastal Knowledge Research Hub (TRaCK), which aims to provide the science and knowledge that governments, communities and industries need to sustainably manage northern Australia's rivers and estuaries.
TRaCK recognised that Indigenous people had rarely been effectively engaged in research on their country, and that Indigenous values associated with environmental resources tend to be poorly understood by decision makers. Additionally, many researchers that come to work in northern Australia do not have a good understanding of Indigenous culture and need help to develop appropriate ways to communicate with and involve Indigenous people in their research.
In the first phase of TRaCK, researchers set out to gain a better understanding of Indigenous values and how to better collaborate with people living in northern Australia to ensure their knowledge is included in research outputs. The lessons from this work were included in the Indigenous Engagement Strategy for a new research program, the Northern Australia Hub of the National Environmental Research Program.
The strategy was developed to ensure that the Hub's research is:
- relevant and, if possible, beneficial to Indigenous people
- conducted according to the highest ethical standards
- providing opportunities for Indigenous employment and skills development
- facilitating two-way knowledge sharing and an increase in cross-cultural awareness, and
- respectfully communicating research progress and outcomes to Indigenous people.
Many of the Hub's 16 projects require collaborative partnerships with Traditional Owners and Indigenous ranger groups. In particular, researchers are collaborating with Traditional Owners and rangers in Arnhem Land, Kakadu, the Kimberley and the Daly River region to prepare local research agreements.
Whenever possible, Indigenous rangers and Traditional Owners are invited to participate in field work on their country, and to take part in meetings and workshops. The fact that they are taking up these opportunities in most cases demonstrates a desire to be actively involved.
After the strategy's endorsement, the Indigenous Advisory Committee of the Australian Government Department of Sustainability, Environment, Water, Population and Communities encouraged all five hubs of the National Environmental Research Program to adopt its principles.
To find out more about the strategy please contact the Northern Australia Hub on (08) 8946 7619 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.