More than 100 Indigenous contributors have created the first Indigenous-led guidelines on how to best strengthen and share Indigenous knowledge in land and sea management, funded under the Australian Government’s National Environmental Science Program.

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The 'Our Knowledge Our Way in caring for Country - Best Practice Guidelines from Australian experiences' is based on 23 case studies from across Australia, from the Torres Strait to Tasmania.

The North Australian Indigenous Land and Sea Management Alliance Ltd (NAILSMA), CSIRO, and the Australian Committee for IUCN facilitated the guidelines as part of NESP Northern Australia Environmental Resources Hub research that is supporting Traditional Owners by enabling the sharing of their knowledge the 'right way' in land and sea management and environmental research.

"These guidelines better value and strengthen Indigenous knowledge holders and the systems that need to be in place to protect Traditional knowledge, in a platform that can be readily accessed by the researchers and the broader community," said Ricky Archer, CEO of NAILSMA and Djungan man from the Western Tablelands of north Queensland. "One of the best examples that mixes cultural knowledge systems and Western knowledge frameworks is Savanna Burning Projects, a cultural burning practice that's been put through an academic framework to measure things like carbon."

Through the Indigenous-led guidelines, the authors share what is seen as best practice when working with Indigenous knowledge in land and sea management, research and enterprise development.

The guidelines highlight how Indigenous knowledge is kept strong through access to Country and Indigenous cultural governance of knowledge. The key guiding principle is that Indigenous people must decide what is best practice in working with Indigenous knowledge. The guidelines cut across four themes: strengthening Indigenous knowledge; strong partnerships; sharing and weaving knowledge; and Indigenous land and sea networks.

"We need to take the time to listen and show respect for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Peoples' knowledge, culture and Country, and be led by their knowledge," said Dr Emma Woodward, research scientist at Australia’s national science agency CSIRO. "We have much to learn from Indigenous Peoples and so much more to achieve by working together."

Executive member of the Australian Committee for IUCN and IUCN Regional Councillor Peter Cochran said: "The Committee's support for this publication reflects our acknowledgement and respect for Australia's long and rich history of land and sea management by Indigenous Peoples, and their deep knowledge and expertise about a vast and changing continent."

The guidelines identify ways that partners can support good knowledge practice, for example, through strong partnership agreements, support for cultural governance arrangements, and protocols.

The case study "Yanama budyari gumada: walking with good spirit at Yarramundi, western Sydney" shows how partnerships work where there is trust founded on mutual respect. The Darug custodians explain how they are facilitating important connections with other people who connect with Yarramundi, helping them to "sign-in" to Country. They show visitors how to crush up white ochre and blow it out of their mouths to put a handprint on the casuarina trees.

The Indigenous-majority project Steering Group hope the guidelines prove useful to assist sharing and learning between Indigenous land and sea managers, to educate current and future partners, and to realise good outcomes for people and Country.

The guidelines will be launched at an online event on 30 July at 1pm AEST. Launch of the Our Knowledge, Our Way in caring for Country.

The guidelines and a film showcasing the work can be found at Our Knowledge Our Way.

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Images

  • A group of people sitting around a campfire.

    Walking with good spirit at Yarramundi, Western Sydney (NSW) Darug custodians and university researchers talk of the importance of walking with good spirit in creating an opportunity to learn from each other and from Country at Yarramundi, western Sydney. Here they are yarning together at Yarramundi. Photo: Yanama budyari gumada

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  • Tasmanian Aboriginal dancer Jarrod Hughes performing a dance routine.

    Tebrakunna and Melythina Tiakana Warrana Aboriginal Corporation (Tas) showcases a successful partnership between the Tebrakunna and Melythina Tiakana Warrana Aboriginal Corporation and the Woolnorth Windfarm Group in establishing the Tebrakunna Visitor Centre, illustrating several principles critical in establishing a successful partnership. Here Tasmanian Aboriginal dancer Jarrod Hughes dances at Mannalargenna Day, 2019. Photo: MJ Anders

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  • Person showing a boy boy how to decorate clap sticks.

    Language and land: Arabana on-Country language camps (SA) highlights the activities of the Mobile Language Team, which has supported 20+ Aboriginal language groups through activities such as on-Country language camps, co-curricular language programs, videography and training for medical students. Here an Arabana camp leader shows a young Arabana boy how to decorate clapsticks. Photo: Mobile Language Team

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  • Three people standing on a beach talking with their backs to the water.

    Wirlomin Noongar language and stories (WA) showcases how digital solutions and face to face gathering has contributed to re-embedding language, story and song in the landscape, and revitalising language and culture. Here Clint Bracknell, Roma Winmar and Iris Woods record a Noongar story at Point Ann, WA. Photo: Amy Budrikis, Wirlomin Noongar Language and Stories.

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  • Person holding up a large poster while teaching at the front of a class full of students.

    The Torres Strait traditional ecological knowledge project involved the development of a secure database for communities to record, store, protect and, where applicable, share traditional knowledge within their own community whilst adhering to their respective community’s cultural protocols. Here Masigalgal Elder Mr Moses Mene informs Tagai Primary Students how Masigalgal used to work together to harvest from the land and seas for survival in generations past. Photo: Chris de La Rosa

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  • Four people standing in the bush in fire fighting gear.

    Dhelkunya Wi (healing fire): Healing massacre site, Djaara (people) and Djandak (Country) (Vic) shows how Dja Dja Wurrung have been bringing back Djandak Wi onto Country through partnerships with government agencies, particularly Forest Fire Management Victoria Loddon Mallee and Parks Victoria. Dja Dja Wurrung fireworkers (from left) Trent Nichols, Andrew Murray, Mick Bourke and Amos Atkinson. Photo: DELWP.

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