Environmental Policy News

First Indigenous-Led Land and Sea Management Guidelines

More than 100 Indigenous contributors have created Australia’s first guidelines on how to best strengthen and share Indigenous knowledge in land and sea management.

The Our Knowledge, Our Way guidelines were launched on July 30 at an online event to more than 1,100 people. The guidelines identify ways that partners can support good knowledge practice, for example, through strong partnership agreements, support for cultural governance arrangements, and protocols.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA         The guidelines feature case studies from around Australia. Here in the Torres Strait, Masigalgal Elder, Mr Moses informs Tagai Primary Students Traditional Ecological Knowledge project (Image: Chris de La Rosa).

Since the launch, the guidelines have been greeted with applause by key partners and contributors.

“Filling a large gap in the research world”: the response to the guidelines

“The vibe of the launch was positive, and since then we’ve seen deadly positivity on social media for the resource: it is seen as filling a large gap in the research world. The guidelines provide an opportunity to educate willing researchers, whether early career or established, as a guide to engage and understand why Caring for Country is so important to Indigenous people.” Brad Moggridge, Associate Professor in Indigenous Water Science at the University of Canberra.

“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.” Ricky Archer, CEO of North Australian Indigenous Land and Sea Management Alliance (NAILSMA).

“What I enjoyed the most about the launch was the opportunity to share the platform with other such strong, passionate and committed Indigenous leaders, sharing our own story, knowledge and wisdom in our way.” Torres Webb, Cultural Capability Advisor at CSIRO.

“These guidelines address the growing need for practical advice for researchers and policy makers. Knowing that these guidelines came from an Indigenous-led process gives great confidence in the advice, and the case studies demonstrate a diverse range of approaches, contexts and outcomes.” Michael Douglas, Professor and leader of the Australian Government’s National Environmental Science Program (NESP) Northern Australia Environmental Resources Hub.

What are the Our Knowledge, Our Way guidelines?  

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.

Together, NAILSMA, CSIRO and the Australian Committee for IUCN facilitated the guidelines as a key outcome of NESP Northern Australia Environmental Resources Hub research. The research focused on supporting Traditional Owners by enabling the sharing of their knowledge the ‘right way’ in land and sea management and environmental research.

“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 CSIRO.

“We have much to learn from Indigenous Peoples and so much more to achieve by working together. The development of the Guidelines took a huge collaborative effort over a number of years… as the stories came in, and the number of contributors went up, a sense of excitement grew – that we were part of something that might really deliver change.”

“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,” Ricky Archer said.

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.

This is just the beginning …

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 realize good outcomes for people and Country.

“The guidelines will support my work with scientists and others. They showcase best and promising practices in working together with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples and communities, especially how we move forward on journey towards Indigenous-led science, excellence and innovation,” Torres Webb said.

Professor Michael Douglas agrees: “these guidelines will be a great legacy from NESP and will have a strong influence on future program design and implementation.”

You can download the guidelines here and watch the film here.

By Kate Cranney, CSIRO

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