Dr Katherine Locock is passionate about supporting Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander businesses. She supports them to develop and commercialise innovative products, drawing on their extensive knowledge of the medicinal properties of Australian native plants.
Katherine, who is non-Indigenous, is uniquely placed to do so through her role as leader of our Drug Discovery Chemistry Team.
“My role is very much focused on supporting the development of new medicines and products that support human health. I am inspired by working with Indigenous Australians, and their vision for how to transform traditional medicine into products for modern markets,” said Katherine.
Business is b(l)ooming
The team has seen huge growth in the number of Indigenous businesses partnering with us. The businesses are keen to blend western and Indigenous science to deliver on their goals.
“We’ve just wound up a proof-of-concept study for Outback Academy that was supported by the CSIRO Kick-Start program. This project looked at developing extracts of a key medicinal plant for skincare applications,” said Katherine.
The results already look promising. The team has just received a further 12 months of funding through the CSIRO Indigenous Research Grant program to continue to support Outback Academy. It's also exciting because a multi-national, non-Indigenous cosmetics company is keen to become a customer of theirs.
Respecting Indigenous cultural and intellectual property
The research is completely led by the Indigenous clients.
“It’s an exciting time as we also have a pipeline of other Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander businesses approaching us. They come to us with problems they want us to solve,” said Katherine.
“In that process, they also often need to share cultural knowledge about the plants we work with. We recognise the value of their Indigenous cultural and intellectual property. That’s reflected in all our agreements – they retain complete control over their knowledge.”
Katherine is an advocate within CSIRO for the Reconciliation Action Plan. She says her motivation to be an advocate stems from the people she meets. To her, the staff from Native Secrets and Outback Academy are like family.
“The relationships are authentic and the work we’re doing is powerful – it’s about people and it’s about impact. It’s about retaining the connection to culture, providing economic benefits to communities and facilitating job opportunities on Country,” said Katherine.
The CSIRO advantage
We have the biggest science footprint across the nation. We are in the best position to work with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Peoples to respectfully bring our knowledge systems together.
“Australia’s Indigenous Peoples have the most enduring traditional knowledge system in the world, and we have the breadth of western science and reach to support them. Our remit is to drive benefit for all Australians. If we’re not doing that, we’re not doing our job,” said Katherine.
“Science is an important mechanism for driving reconciliation because it’s an equaliser. We can bring all of our knowledge together to derive the most benefit. I have learned a lot and met many supportive people along the way.
“Some people don’t jump in because they are scared to make mistakes. Let’s approach Indigenous knowledge with authenticity and a willingness to listen. We shouldn’t be afraid to make mistakes and learn,” said Katherine.