CSIRO Indigenous Engagement
Studies in the Northern Territory show that improvements in social, cultural and landscape health can be achieved by renewing access to country for Indigenous communities, and allowing them to apply traditional land management.
However, translating this promising approach into sustainable livelihoods has not been achieved on a broad scale in Australia and there are many examples of enterprises and activities based on natural resource management which have failed. Similar issues are evident in the Pacific region.
Consequently, there is a need to systematically assess the appropriate planning and policy environment required to develop Indigenous livelihood systems based on natural resource management.
Indigenous Livelihoods Stream
In response to this need, CSIRO is investigating new enterprises and job opportunities for Indigenous communities in its Indigenous Livelihoods Stream - led by Dr James Butler.
The Stream is in the Partnering in International Food and Fibre Security theme of CSIRO's Sustainable Agriculture Flagship, and is developing linkages with overseas case studies of remote social-ecological systems.
Three overarching research questions have been identified
- What are the system properties that lead to or inhibit sustainable livelihoods based on natural resource management?
- How can social learning enhance the system properties that lead to sustainable Indigenous social-ecological systems without eroding social and cultural bonds among Indigenous people?
- Can scientific knowledge and Indigenous knowledge successfully work together in natural resource management?
- How do we measure the impact of research on the lives of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples?
The objectives of our research are to:
- demonstrate how Western science and Indigenous knowledge can best work together to achieve sustainable Indigenous livelihoods
- create an interface between community and policy makers to learn mutually about livelihood issues
- develop revised approaches to understanding remote and vulnerable social-ecological systems
- develop and test better tools to plan, monitor and evaluate livelihood strategies based on natural resource management.
A further goal is to establish genuine benefit-sharing arrangements with communities involved with research.
Our research aims to demonstrate how Western science and Indigenous knowledge can best work together to achieve sustainable Indigenous livelihoods.
Strategies to achieve this include establishing:
- co-research frameworks with Indigenous people and communities
- networks between communities, CSIRO researchers and policy partners to allow exchange of knowledge and social learning
- ethical procedures covering protection of intellectual property, remuneration of co-researchers and research agreements
- education and training opportunities
- capacity of CSIRO researchers to work among Indigenous communities.
We are establishing a series of case studies of natural resource management-based enterprises across remote Australia and overseas.
- control of invasive species
- wetland restoration
- management of pastoral properties for economic and cultural outcomes
In all cases the enterprises have been instigated by Indigenous communities. At this community scale, CSIRO researchers and Indigenous co-researchers will monitor the process of planning and executing enterprises, and follow their progress over a period of at least three years.
With the communities' consent, we will also undertake broader analyses and modelling of case studies’ experiences to understand generic issues which can inform policy makers.
Our research partners include:
- Indigenous communities, corporations and land councils
- Commonwealth Department of Environment, Water, Heritage and the Arts
- Desert Knowledge Cooperative Research Centre (CRC)
- Northern Gulf Natural Resource Management (NRM) Board
- Torres Strait Regional Authority
- Australian Fisheries Management Authority
- Australian Institute of Marine Science
- Palm Island Council
- Carpentaria-shire Council
- James Cook University
- Charles Darwin University
- Resilience Alliance's Indigenous Societies Working Group
- Conservation International
- The Nature Conservancy