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Questions to specific panel members:

Q. To Peter - how do we make the greater Australian community aware that the Indigenous Estate and its management is so important to the conservation of Australia’s biodiversity and ultimately sustainability.

While I think there is a growing awareness, interest and appreciation of the extent, depth and sophistication of Indigenous knowledge and its application to managing country for biodiversity conservation and uses that are sustainable, it's off a small base. There is even less public appreciation for the incredible changes that have happened over the last 20 years in terms of formal recognition of, and support for, Indigenous management of country.

We need more champions to speak this message - and they need to come from sectors other than conservation - as so many ears are closed to those speaking with conservation voices and in conservation language. These changes, and the vital environmental, cultural, social and economic role that the Indigenous Estate and its management plays extend far beyond conservation and the use of natural resources - it is also about recognition, empowerment, pride and respect for Australia’s Indigenous peoples, and their knowledge and history.

So we need champions who can speak these messages loudly and proudly from many different perspectives. They need to be opinion leaders and influencers from diverse sectors - whether business, art, sport, health, the media AND from politics.

One of the most exciting outcomes from evaluations of the IPA and Indigenous Ranger programs was the health benefits of people being back on country, managing, teaching younger generations, learning from elders, and inviting others in to share their knowledge and experience. So health professionals, Ministers, and researchers can be speaking up. And, repetition is a sad requirement of getting a message through.

Q. Peter you mentioned in the film that over half of Australia’s protected area is managed by Indigenous peoples - why is Indigenous knowledge and approaches so important to that management?

A: Indigenous knowledge and approaches encapsulate the accumulated encyclopaedic wisdom of thousands of years about land and sea, what land and sea can provide to sustain people, and how they need to be looked after to continue to supply essential needs.

Applying this knowledge is fundamental to sound management, although given the enormous changes that have been imposed on our lands and seas deliberately, inadvertently and carelessly over the last two and a half centuries, we need all the tools available to restore that heritage, protect what remains and use the resources it provides wisely.

This means we all need to work together to tackle these challenges. But at the heart of addressing these challenges should be the Indigenous understanding and knowledge of country to guide us.

Q. Brad: As a non-Indigenous university academic, how can I best incorporate Indigenous knowledge and practices in a respectful way into a course to increase student awareness?

A. That’s a tricky way to put it, you can’t really incorporate knowledge if it’s not yours. Indigenous people are best placed to share their own knowledge and students will take away an understanding/appreciation of that knowledge.

The best way would be guide students to resources, seek out Indigenous led projects/research, get Elders in and pay them, build relationships with traditional owners in your area, ensure the university has pathways for Indigenous undergrads to postdocs to Profs, and let them incorporate their knowledge and be a champion of Indigenising the curricula at the institution.

Questions to the panel, these have been organised under the following headings:

  • The Our Knowledge Our Way Guidelines – Use and Engagement
  • Indigenous Engagement – timelines and budgets
  • Indigenous Engagement – how to do it well
  • Indigenous Engagement – Needs and Benefits
  • Indigenous Engagement – with Dispossessed Groups
  • Roles of Government, Industry, Philanthropy and Funders
  • Indigenous Cultural and Intellectual Property (ICIP)
  • Indigenous Knowledge and Science
  • Indigenous Engagement at CSIRO
  • EPBC Act Review
  • Other

Use and engagement with the Our Knowledge Guidelines

Q. Could these guidelines be used in the context of implementing the Nagoya Protocol (Access and Benefit Sharing) in Australia? I could see the panel members playing an important role in that respect, particularly that some States and Territories are trying to pass their own legislation on this topic (e.g. WA with the Biodiscovery Bill).

Section 4.4, pp 101-102, discusses the Nagoya Protocol, and the processes underway to bring Australian state and federal legislation in line. We note that Gerry Turpin, Aboriginal ethnobotanist and leader of Case Study 3-2, pp 65-66, is contributing to a Traditional Knowledge Roundtable that is advising on legislative reform in Queensland.

The new act was introduced into the Queensland Parliament on August 11 2020, the Minister Leanne Enoch said “The legislative changes to the Biodiscovery Act will ensure research institutions, universities and the private sector seek agreement with First Nations peoples before using their resources or traditional knowledge for biodiscovery purposes.” Minister Enoch is an Aboriginal woman whose grandparents were a Kaanju woman and a Quandamooka man.

Q. What is your expectation about these guidelines and your targeted audience? - to any panel member.

Section 1.1.1 on p. 4 explains the for-benefit and target audiences for the Guidelines. “The Guidelines first and foremost aim to benefit our Indigenous colleagues across Australia by highlighting their empowered, active, knowledge-driven practices in caring for their Country.

In addition, the target audience of the Guidelines are aiatsis.” Subsequent text describes wider audiences who may be interested.

Q. I suspect all on this webinar fully endorse these best practice guidelines. What are you planning to do to share these guidelines with the wider community to overcome what I see as either indifference or ignorance of what Indigenous-led approaches will mean for all Australians?

Our dissemination strategy includes targeted use of media (article in ECOS, social media posts), seminars e.g. presentation at the 2020 Victorian DELWP Science Symposium, internal distribution within CSIRO - 5000 staff members, and through our networks, including national and international networks amongst government, community and Indigenous partners.

Take-up is currently exceeding our expectations – for example on 13 August we were informed that The Nature Conservancy, a global non-government environment organisation, has distributed to all their people globally!

We are also preparing policy briefs, short one-page high-level summaries, with different material targeted for State and Federal Governments, partners (including universities), and Indigenous organisations.

Q. What are some of the actions being done now that these guidelines have been developed? Will we see more on the ground caring for country in other areas?

The Guidelines are making the on-ground caring for country visible, and the ideas of Indigenous people about what makes actions 'good' much more available.

The guidelines highlight key actions needed to grow and support improved practice, summarised in Chapter 5, and include: strengthen access to and control of our Country; promote a new story of environmental management and enterprise development that recognises our connections with and caring for our Country over millennia; and many others.

As noted above, policy briefs are being developed to synthesis key actions for governments, partners and Indigenous organisations.

Q. What are some of the ways we can sustain this collective move and partnership that has been established through the guidelines?

Networks are recognised as vital to sustaining this collective movement and page 117 sets out general guidance about how to support networks.

These recommendations will form part of the policy briefs under preparation, supporting ongoing advocacy by Indigenous peoples about the need for a national land and sea network.

However, networks are also self-organising and some people who have found new and useful contacts are maintaining these.

Q. Out of interest, how many people joined the webcast?

1,107 people joined the webcast!

As at 28 August the Our Knowledge Our Way video had been viewed 1,209 times, and the recording of the launch had been viewed 186 time.

Q. This will be a great teaching resource for Universities. Is there a plan for how that might be facilitated?

Currently we do not have enough hard copies to supply Universities, but the libraries of each will receive an email with the target policy brief and a link to the on-line resources. Unfortunately, there are no resources to print more.

Indigenous engagement – timelines and budgets

Q. Researchers are often given short term grants, projects, and positions. How is it possible for us to have meaningful engagement in the face of such insecurity and time pressure?"

A. See Michael Douglas (45min) and Anne Poelina’s (47min) responses to a similar question in the launch. See also sections 3.1 and 5.2 of the Guidelines. Funders are becoming increasingly aware of the need for flexibility when collaborating with Indigenous peoples, and researchers must continue to communicate why this is essential to their funders and institutions.

Relationships with Indigenous partners and collaborators span much longer timeframes than project or grant cycles.

The key to building strong partnerships lies in developing trust and respect, this can happen quicker than you might think if engagement is grounded in the principles of openness and honesty, and if the research truly benefits Indigenous collaborators, aligns with their aspirations, and they have the opportunity to lead.

Q. I would love to be able to work with Traditional Owner groups in my region, but funding timelines often make it difficult to fit everything in. Do you have some advice for better engagement, trying to allow sufficient time to build relationships, within these tight timeframes?

See answer above.

Q. Researchers are often given short term grants, projects, and positions. How is it possible for us to have meaningful engagement in the face of such insecurity and time pressure?

See answer above.

Q. As a PhD student, who really only has a year or two to engage community, does the panel think there is enough time to engage community at an appropriate level? Also, as funding is limited during a PhD project, how important is remuneration?

A. See answer above, particularly Anne Poelina’s response during to a similar question in the launch (at 45min).

Engaging with any Indigenous partners you’d like to work with from the very beginning until the very end of your PhD, and beyond, is important to ensure your research benefits your Indigenous collaborators and aligns with their aspirations. Engaging with those individuals and groups during the development of your proposal is necessary to adhere to ethical research guidelines, see links provided on p18.

During these early discussions you should be open and honest about your capacity for reimbursement so that the people you want to work with can make an informed decision about whether they want to work with you, and under what conditions.

Indigenous engagement – how to do it well

Q. As an academic researcher, how do we find out who is the best Indigenous contact in a specific location in terms of wanting to establish a partnership and follow best practice guidelines?

See section 1.5.4 of the Guidelines. Different groups have different protocols and governance arrangements. Depending on the group, the relevant land council can be a good place to start.

You may need to approach the Prescribed Body Corporate, if there is one, or the ranger group if that is relevant to your work, or find out who the elders are and try to speak to them. See if they have a Healthy Country or IPA management plan that might outline where to start (e.g. Box 1.3 on p. 16 of the Guidelines).

Remember that it’s best to talk to several different people from the group to ensure you have approval from all appropriate group members (e.g. elders).

You may also need to contact several groups, for example if accessing your area of interest requires travelling across the Country of another group you should seek appropriate permission to do so.

Q. For someone with a leadership role in Australia and shaping its future, who wants to learn more about this area, but no experience with engagement with our first people, where, and how do you start? Rupert Woods - Wildlife Health Australia.

From a quick look at your website, it appears that Wildlife Health Australia is an organisation that would be of great interest to many Indigenous people. Case study 3-9, pp 81-82, presents information about how another non-government environmental organisation has developed positive relationships with Aboriginal people across Australia.

On page 18, we provide links to a number of resources that can help with starting engagement.

You may find it beneficial to talk with other environment organisations who are currently engaging with Australia’s First Peoples e.g. The Nature Conservancy. Good luck!

Q. How are we going to ensure our Indigenous Australians' knowledge isn't being used and not recognised? The Joint Management of Parks, for instance, has shown that there are issues whereby our Indigenous people are indeed consulted, but the final decision ends up being the call of a whiteman in Canberra.

The guidelines recognise in Section 1.5.3 that better protection is needed for Indigenous Australian’s knowledge and sets out options to improve the current situation.

Q. Hi I have always enjoyed working with my local community and am starting doctoral research based south of Batemans Bay on NSW Far South Coast and am wondering, is anyone in the community interested, or engaged in biodiversity studies nearby? I’m very interested in Grassy woodlands, which are endangered. Should I start by contacting my local lands council in Mogo or?

The local land council is a good starting place to find out who you should engage with. It is also recommended you find out how much work has been done on your subject area or other similar research in the region, to avoid repetition and research fatigue among your Indigenous collaborators.

Q. How can researchers in applied geoscience (minerals, water, energy) engage better with Indigenous communities, when the ultimate outcome of their research can lead to more extraction from within and under country, moving into 'contested geoscience' territory?

OKOW does not specifically address partnerships for extraction from Country. However there are many examples of agreements between Traditional Owners and Mining Companies on the Agreements, Treaties and Negotiated Settlements database (ATNS). The website also provides many useful resources.

Key aspects of developing relationships of trust and respect apply regardless of the goal of the partnership.

Q. Does the panel have any thoughts on the best way to conduct research with Traditional Owners in areas where there are tensions between different community groups surrounding Native Title claims and determinations?

You should engage with all Traditional Owner and other Indigenous groups who have an interest in your region. Some of these may be ultimately determined to be rightsholders in relation to native title under the Australian legal system, and others to be stakeholders. T

here are many benefits for your strategy in targeting both rightsholders and stakeholders.

Q. How can Indigenous researchers and knowledge holders be approached to be involved in research relating to their traditional knowledge?

The Guidelines provide lots of advice about the key considerations when working with Indigenous people on research relating to their traditional knowledge.

Chapter 1 provides a good overview for understanding of the key issues, Chapter 2 to understand what working with Indigenous knowledge means, Chapter 3 for guidance on protocols around knowledge sharing, and Chapter 5 which ties it all together.

Indigenous engagement – Needs and benefits

Q. Do the guidelines touch on cultural protocols or expectations regarding non-Indigenous people working on Country who don't have 'need' or intent to engage with the Traditional Owners, but who perhaps want or ought to engage out of respect and to invite collaboration. For example, biologists working in national parks. Thank you! Renée, on Ngunnawal, Ngunawal and Ngambri Country.

Hi Renee, we suggest that working on someone’s Country constitutes a need to engage with them.

The benefits of engaging appropriately are two-way: you can ensure you are working ethically and responsibly and not breaching local protocols, as well as gain valuable insight into your area of study; the Traditional Custodians of the Country you are working on know what you are doing and benefit from it.

See the following responses in the launch Q&A video: Anne Poelina (at 22:40); Linda Ford (at 28:20); Peter Cochrane (at 30:25); Michael Douglas (at 34:10), Brad Moggridge (at 35:40); Ricky Archer (41:35).

Q. How important is it to get social and cultural outcomes from scientific collaborations?

It’s essential that benefits of collaborative research be equitably shared. This is recognised as a key requirement under the NHMRC Ethical conduct in research with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Peoples and communities: Guidelines for researchers and stakeholders. These guidelines are binding for researchers under the National Health and Medical Research Council Act 1992 and should be read in association with the AIATSIS guidelines. Links to these guidelines are found on page 18 of OKOW. It is also a key requirement under the Australian Code for the Responsible Conduct of Research, Principles 4 and 6.

Q. What are good ways to engage Indigenous in research associated with their traditional seasonal knowledge?

Seasonal calendars can be a great tool for documenting and communicating the complexity of Indigenous seasonal knowledge.

Many groups are keen to develop seasonal calendars, and this can be a great way to engage for research while ensuring that your partners are left with a valuable resource. See section 2.7 for information and resources for developing seasonal calendars. More information is also presented in sections 5.1.3, 5.3.1 and 5.32.

Indigenous engagement – with dispossessed groups

Q. Whilst I think it’s great that we need to understand the protocols when connecting with traditional owners on their land, etc, I think it’s really important to know how you go about effective engagement with mob who have been dispossessed. Do any of the panellists have views on this?

The guidelines recognise and discuss, on pp 10-11, the impact of colonisation on all of Australia’s Indigenous peoples and their knowledge systems. Pp 11-12 then discusses “healing impacts of colonisation with Indigenous knowledge”. In this section 1.5.2, many Indigenous people explain how revitalising language and culture can overcome dispossession and disruption e.g. in Case Study 1-2, Aunty Shaa suggests “a need to see the violence of colonisation as part of a creation story as well”. (p. 12).

As set out on p 11, healing with knowledge “is not to gloss over or trivialise the devastation that our people endure from the disasters inflicted by colonisation – but to show that our pathway continues for the future of our Indigenous societies”.

Q. Will these guidelines be a tool for Traditional Owner whose connection to Country may have been interrupted due to colonisation and removal from Country?

See response to the previous question.

Q. I was led to believe that in some areas there are very few or even no Traditional Owners left living on their Traditional Country. How do we maintain and bring back Knowledge for those areas? (watching this on Kaurna Yerta)

See response to the previous questions.

Roles of government, industry, philanthropy and funders

Q. How should government, industry, NGOs and philanthropy support the ILSM [Indigenous Land and Sea Management] organisations to continue this important work?

The end of each chapter summaries key lessons from Indigenous Peoples and for partners from the material in that chapter.

In Chapter 5, these are synthesised into key actions towards best practice to support our knowledge our way. From this material, we are currently preparing policy briefs, short one-page high-level summaries, with different material targeted for State and Federal Governments, partners (including universities), and Indigenous organisations. These will be distributed later in the year.

Q. Do you think it possible to move beyond a guidelines position to something strong i.e. a policy position that researchers must follow? Realising that there are place based considerations.

The guidelines address knowledge strengthening and sharing broadly, including in tourism interpretation, fire management, and other activities as well as research.

The focus is on good practice, and based on the IUCN model, aims to provide:

  • background material related to understanding knowledge brokering
  • analysis of the context and policy that drive the need for knowledge brokering
  • options for action and advice
  • multiple case studies reflecting different contexts
  • thematic sections in the Guidelines
  • multiple photographs, diagrams, and tables
  • specific step-wise processes where relevant
  • options for policy
  • recognition of ongoing challenges, and
  • links to other material.

The guidelines outline the current legal deficiencies in protection for Indigenous knowledge on pp15-16, and present options for improving the law. However, for researchers, ethical practices are required under the National Health and Medical Research Council Act 1992 and researchers working with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Peoples must adhere to their OWN guidelines, see page 18 of OKOW.

Q. How has CSIRO engaged AIATSIS who also have guidelines for ethical research practice and engagement?

The call for case studies was disseminated nationally (see Appendix One pp. 124-127) and we did not receive any from Indigenous Peoples who wanted to share their project partnerships with AIASTIS. The vital role of the guidelines for Ethical Research of AIATSIS are recognised on p. 18.

See above for an outline of the aims of these as a set of practice guideline.

Q. When do you think land and water research funding bodies, such as NESP, will move to a true transdisciplinary approach, that starts with the problem, and matches the expertise to it, rather than always privileging western science?

Michael Douglas (NESP NAER Hub leader) explains some of the changes underway in research funding bodies at 45:00 in the video of the launch. For more information, see NESP 2 .

Queries about land and water research funding bodies are better directed to those bodies and their websites.

Q. Generally speaking, how can Governments better empower Traditional Owners to manage Country?

Chapter 5 sets out “Actions towards best practice” and includes many options for how government can better empower Traditional Owners. From this material, we are currently preparing policy briefs, short one-page high-level summaries, with different material targeted for State and Federal Governments, partners (including universities), and Indigenous organisations. These will be distributed later in the year.

Q. Given our current situation with COVID & its impact on the economy, what tangible & co-benefit outcomes can be achieved on a shoestring budget funding from Governments & other funding bodies has all but dried up?"

The guidelines acknowledge how difficult it is to get resources for the work that is needed see e.g. p. 23 “It is hard to get resources to support Elders to engage youth in learning language and culture and maintaining connections to Country”.

The guidelines also highlight how Indigenous Peoples continue to paint, sing, dance and tell stories, with or without government support. Chapter 5 sets out “Actions towards best practice” and includes many options beyond simply more funding e.g on p. 122 “Together Indigenous people and partners can invest in building trust and respect as a foundation for positive partnerships that assure mutual benefits”.

With a good idea, and strong partnerships, access to funding is often easier. From the material in Chapter 5, we are currently preparing policy briefs, short one-page high-level summaries, with different material targeted for State and Federal Governments, partners (including universities), and Indigenous organisations. These will be distributed later in the year.

Indigenous cultural and intellectual property (ICIP)

Q. How do you deal with copyrights with regards to cultural knowledge that has been incorporated into economic & business opportunities? Should an individual or a family or clan group be able to profit from the benefit from commercialising cultural knowledges of natural resources?

Section 1.5.3, pp 15-16 recognises that new protections are needed for cultural knowledge rights and presents some options for law reform. We include on page 102 an example of a Traditional Owner Group who have negotiated a commercial agreement through Dugalunji Aboriginal Corporation and the University of Queensland. See Indjalandji-Dhidhanu people and University of Queensland - Spinifex research and commercialisation agreements

Q. The video touched on Data Sovereignty, we have recently seen non-Indigenous organisation trademarking Indigenous names and business, how do we safeguard Data Sovereignty outside of research but in day-to-day On Country business?"

See above, unfortunately Section 1.5.3, pp 15-16 recognises that new protections are needed for cultural knowledge rights and presents some options for law reform. Case study 3-4, pp. 70-71 touches on Indigenous data sovereignty, and the need to conform with data sovereignty is recognised on p. 115 in chapter 5.

Indigenous knowledge and science

Q. It's very clear that scientific knowledge can be advanced through connection with Indigenous knowledge, cultures and languages. Can Indigenous knowledge be advanced through science going forward, and how do we make the right connections through training and education to achieve this?

See Case Study 3.9, and sections 3.8, 3.9 and 5.1 of the Guidelines. Sharing and weaving Indigenous knowledge and western science is not a one-way process. Knowledge systems are weaved together to give a richer picture and understanding to all collaborators.

In section 3.9 Traditional Owners in the Kimberley are using western science combined with their traditional and local knowledge to inform their decision-making on agriculture, development and environmental management.

The challenge lies in increasing accessibility of scientific knowledge for Indigenous peoples to further their interests. This is why it’s imperative that research with Indigenous peoples is based on strong partnerships and designed to meet the needs and aspirations of Indigenous partners, and that research outputs are shared with them in appropriate formats – which includes providing training where necessary.

Q. Acknowledgement and recognition of Traditional Owners sharing Ecological Knowledge is key to codesign, reconciliation and so forth. How is co-authorship of publications (published materials) which is so critical, received in the science/research community?

The Australian Code for the Responsible Conduct of Research outlines that Indigenous research partners and knowledge holders should be recognised for their research contribution research:

  • Principle 4: ‘Fairness in the treatment of others’, which requires researchers to ‘give credit, including authorship where appropriate, to those who have contributed to the research.’
  • Principle 6: ‘Recognition of the right of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Peoples to be engaged in research that affects or is of particular significance to them’, which requires researchers to credit the contributions of Indigenous people and knowledge.

When research is co-designed or led by Indigenous people, their knowledge contributes to the research design, they actively participate in data collection, they interpret data and results, then they meet the criteria for authorship like anyone else. Best practice research facilitates these processes.

Q. Indigenous conservation priorities do not always align with those of contemporary conservation (eg. culturally important species have been culled). To what extent are Indigenous peoples being included in the conservation planning stages and species prioritisation?

Indigenous peoples are involved in many conservation planning and species prioritisation across Australia. For example, see for example Indigenous Action in Threatened Species Research and Management and quantifying current and potential contributions of Australian Indigenous Peoples to threatened species management. Opportunities exist for much greater levels of involvement.

Q. Could you be so kind as to give us an example of how scientific knowledge and Indigenous knowledge system are complementary?

See Q&A responses from Anne Poelina (at 22:40); Peter Cochrane (at 30:25); Michael Douglas (at 34:10), Brad Moggridge (at 35:40); and Ricky Archer (41:35). See also Case Study 3.9, and sections 3.8, 3.9 and 5.1 of the Guidelines on sharing and weaving knowledge systems. These knowledge systems come from differing worldviews, with different systems of validation. Indigenous knowledge is ancient wisdom based on a long history of observations that have been tested and retested.

Therefore, by incorporating Indigenous knowledge we have an opportunity to fully understand the systems we are exploring. Building an understanding of natural systems based on both knowledge systems gives all parties a richer understanding.

Q. Educating non-Indigenous students and scientists-in-training. There is still a culture clash - Western Vs Indigenous. How to move forward, especially when environments are drastically changing due to Climate Change and biodiversity damage?

See section and Torres Webb’s answer (at 38:05) and section 2.9.2 and 5.3 of the Guidelines. Two-way science programs are having great success for students of all backgrounds. Working across knowledge systems helps improve understanding and valuing of diverse cultural perspectives and world-views.

Q. Complexity and connectivity - as scientists trained in reductionism and often with a narrow focus, how do we even begin to build relationships? Is there some sort of matching service?

We are not aware of any general matching service between scientists and Indigenous peoples. The place to begin relationship-building will depend on your area of science e.g. is it relevant to a particular part of Australia? Contact local Traditional Owner organisation.

Is it relevant to a particular sector e.g. synthetic biology, mining? Consider the guidance in your organisations Reconciliation Action Plan e.g. CSIRO’s Reconcilliation Action Plan, look for national networks relevant to your area of interest e.g. the Indigenous Data Network (

Look at Anne Poelina’s response in the video of the launch of OKOW, at 47:00 – she provides excellent ideas about getting started, ensuring that you are grounded in what is important to Indigenous people.

Q. How do we get academia to truly value Indigenous knowledge (walk the walk)

Many initiatives in academia are demonstrating an increased valuing of Indigenous knowledge e.g. see guidelines section 2.5 and case study 2-3 about the Mobile Language Team based at the University of Adelaide.

The University of Melbourne has recently highlighted THE UNIQUE VALUE OF INDIGENOUS KNOWLEDGE.

However, much more needs to be done. Questions about ongoing changes to academia are best addressed to academia and particular academic organisations. We will ensure that the guidelines are distributed to all Australian universities as part of our dissemination plan.

Indigenous engagement at CSIRO

Q. 1. Has CSIRO undertaken an audit of their own research to assess whether proper authority has been given to past and current work? 2. Has CSIRO investigated linkages for Indigenous caring for Country to the Globally Important Agricultural Heritage Systems (GIAHS) initiative?

No CSIRO has not undertaken an audit. see CSIRO’s Reconciliation Action Plan , this is currently being renewed. We have investigated existing linkages between Indigenous pollinator conservation practices globally to the Globally Important Agricultural Heritage Systems (GIAHS) and published our findings here Biocultural approaches to pollinator conservation.

More work is needed in Australia to investigate agricultural heritage.

Q. Hello panel, I work for the Marine National Facility who operate the Research Ship Investigator. We are keen to use our position to promote opportunities for projects that feature co-design and incorporate Indigenous and western knowledge systems and approach. Will these guidelines be suitable to refer to our users (both CSIRO but mostly from research institutes across Australia) when commencing development of their ideas? Is there any capability either within CSIRO or externally that can assist in the brokering of opportunities? Thanks - and great video which I will share within our BU

Yes, the Office of Indigenous Engagement in CSIRO is facilitating wider distribution of these guidelines within CSIRO, and promoting these during NAIDOC week 2020, 8-15 November.

We will also be sharing with the libraries of all Australian Universities.

EPBC Act review

Q. The interim report on the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act states that this legislation is not meeting objectives as they relate to Indigenous Australians. Does the panel have any insights on how the work of Indigenous rangers and Indigenous knowledge can be included in revisions to our national environmental legislation?

Many Indigenous organisations have made submissions to this review about ways to better include Indigenous rangers and Indigenous knowledge, and these are available online. See for example 10 Deserts Project, Northern Australia Indigenous Land and Sea Management Alliance.

All publicly available submissions can be found at

Q. Will the CSIRO provide a copy to Minister Ley to help her engage appropriately with traditional owners in her consideration of the final Samuel report on the EPBC Act review? (TFIC)

Yes, as Minister for the Department of Environment, Water and Agricultural, which funded the NESP and the guidelines project (together with CSIRO), the Minister automatically receives a copy.

We are currently preparing policy briefs, short one-page high-level summaries, with different material targeted for State and Federal Governments, partners (including universities), and Indigenous organisations. These will be distributed later in the year, including to Minister Ley.

Q. The Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act (EPBC Act) is being reviewed and the Act has a number of Indigenous objectives built in, is there scope for a more significant role for Indigenous involvement in these environmental matters?

The Interim Report of the Review of the EPBC recognises a scope for a more significant role and makes a number of recommendations see These include for example “The National Environmental Standards should include specific requirements relating to best practice Indigenous engagement, to enable Indigenous views and knowledge to be incorporated into regulatory processes.”


Q. Hello! I am a current student at university studying environmental management, I’m particularly interested in indigenous land management. Having no previous experience in the environmental sector, is there any advice you could give me on ways to get involved?

A good way to get involved is to offer to volunteer with a local organisation who are either an Indigenous organisation or who you see are doing good work and have healthy relationships with Indigenous partners.

Q. What indigenous food crops are scaling up and reviving indigenous agriculture so we can see food in supermarkets or medicines in chemists?

The Indigenous-led bush products sector is growing in Australia, and the diversity of foods, botanicals and health care related-products available on the market is growing: available direct from the producer, via cooperative ventures and also through more commercial outlets. For example, around Australia a number of groups and individuals are investigating salt bush and kangaroo grass as commercial crops.

Individuals and cooperatives are also growing Kakadu Plum/Gubinge, for the national and international market (see Northern Australia Aboriginal Kakadu Plum Alliance(NAAKPA) for example).

There are many more diverse examples – including the work of Bush Medijina which is showcased in the Guidelines.

Results of an Indigenous-led project to investigate further development of the Indigenous-led bush products sector can be found here: Building the Indigenous-led bush products sector, northern Australia

Q. "I note the lack of case studies on the map shown from the Murray Darling Basin. Is this a reflection that land ownership is not linked to water ownership? Are there still a ways to go with working with Traditional Owners on freshwater management (rivers, floodplains and wetlands)?"

Case studies were supplied to the project team following a national call out for examples illustrating best practice in working with Indigenous knowledge. While none were forthcoming from the Murray Darling Basin, section 3.7 contains information and links related to partnerships between Murray Darling Aboriginal Groups and the Murray Darling Basin Authority.

Land and water are inextricably linked, water ownership in the Murray Darling system is particularly contentious with many competing interests and stakeholders. See also section 3.9 for an example of Traditional Owner engagement in freshwater management from the Fitzroy River in the Kimberley Region of Western Australia.

Q. I work on an urban waterway. Does the panel have any specific advice for best approaches in these environments where there are so many more stakeholders and complexity of interests?

Programs aimed at working with Aboriginal people in urban waterways are occurring in many parts of Australia, see for example The Aboriginal Water Program. In Melbourne’s Yarra River, a special Act now provides specific mechanisms see New law finally gives voice to the Yarra River’s traditional owners. See also Graham Atkinson’s response to a question about urban areas at 43:00 in the video of the launch.

Q. Traditional Ecological Knowledge is tied to language. How is Indigenous language vitality being supported?

See section 2.5 of the guidelines, and list to Linda Ford’s response to a similar question in the Q&A recording (at 51:40).

Q. How can Indigenous knowledge break barriers and start to be better recognised and influential globally?

See Brad Moggridge’s answer to this question in the Q&A recording (at 49:40).

Q. From Ami - how can we better promote Aboriginal and Torres Strait knowledge and science on the global stage?

See Chapter 4 which examines global Indigenous knowledge initiatives, reflecting that Indigenous knowledge systems are gaining recognition as sophisticated ways of understanding that can contribute to solutions to the world’s environmental issues. Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Peoples are engaging through international networks and platforms including the World Indigenous Network, the Convention on Biological Diversity, through IUCN Indigenous Peoples’ Organisations, and through international knowledge sharing partnerships (see Case Study 4-1, p.95).

Q. How do the panellists see the AIATSIS Guidelines supporting local scale protocols on Country as they are presented so well in the OKOW guidelines?

The vital role of the AIATSIS guidelines for Ethical Research are recognised on p. 18. Both the AIATSIS and Our Knowledge Our Way Guidelines highlight the importance of adhering to local protocols when working with Indigenous people and communities.

The AIATSIS Guidelines focus on ethical research and provides fourteen principles for researchers to follow. Our Knowledge Our Way is targeted at a wider audience including those who support and enable caring for Country, for example staff of Indigenous and partner organisations, policy-makers and the wider community.

The principles from the AIATSIS Guidelines and the options for actions towards best practice (Chapter 5 of Our Knowledge Our Way) are complementary in the guidance provided.

Q. How important is language? I try to use aboriginal languages for names of places for example. Our colleagues in NZ always start their emails with Kia Ora...should we start using Warami? I believe small steps all count but.. am I right?

Small steps do count, as long as you are using language respectfully, and not appropriating Indigenous knowledge. Perhaps you could talk to an Indigenous person in your region about whether or not they think it is appropriate to use their language.

Australia differs to New Zealand in the diversity and number of Indigenous languages, see section 1.2 and figure 1.3.

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