University of Queensland – Gatton
Research aims and objectives | Incorporating Indigenous
knowledge | Two-way communication framework | Indigenous and western knowledge |
methods | Supervisors | More information |
The major aim for this research is to develop a cross-cultural
communication framework that expresses the complexities of
Indigenous knowledge and management processes.
Such a framework would allow for a deeper understanding of
Indigenous values and the place they can hold in natural resource
management. Strategies expressed in the framework will underpin
collaborations in knowledge use and natural resource management. It
also aims to provide a sound basis for policy and program
development to enhance and facilitate the process of engagement
with Indigenous peoples, and the development of training materials
for natural resource managers.
Despite a growing body of literature on traditional ecological
knowledge and increasing international awareness of its importance,
Indigenous knowledge has rarely been incorporated into the
practical day-to-day administration and policies of governments and
departments responsible for resource management and conservation.
There have been
The fundamental difficulty that has prevented meaningful
involvement has been divergent knowledge paradigms, which have
resulted in unequal and undervalued contributions to management by
Nevertheless, there is growing awareness in some quarters that
Indigenous Knowledge and cultural perspectives could enhance the
sustainable management of resources, and in Australia there is a
gradually increasing participation of Indigenous landowners in
stakeholder-based land management processes.
This should be enhanced as a matter of social justice. Achieving
Indigenous participation in local and regional natural resource
management, and integrating Indigenous with scientific knowledge
for practical use, have both proved challenging owing to the
differing knowledge paradigms and management processes of our two
There are marked differences in the philosophical and practical
nature of the sciences involved. This, and the socio-cultural
complexity of the Indigenous knowledge, makes integration of
natural resource management with cultural heritage management
problematic for most scientists and government land managers.
The very different systems of governance for land and natural
resource management between western science and Indigenous
knowledge further complicates the sharing of management (Orchard
et al . 2003; Young et al . 1991). A two-way
communication framework, incorporating Indigenous natural resource
values and governance processes, is needed to address these
There are now only small isolated pockets around the globe where
traditional Indigenous resource-management systems operate (Berkes
Over the past century, globalisation and the expansion of
western natural resource management systems have affected the
natural cycles and resources, and the impacts of these systems
cannot be accurately predicted or effectively controlled (Sadler
& Jacobs 1990).
Despite the best intentions of scientists, there seems to be
little capacity in western knowledge and management systems to halt
the depletion of resources and the degradation of environments
(Berkes 1999). However, more holistic approaches to natural
resource management that integrate local knowledge systems are
becoming more acceptable and the potential of Indigenous knowledge
is being acknowledged.
Indigenous peoples have knowledge of and connections with the
land and ecosystems in which they live. Over time, they have
managed environments to allow for the evolution of the ecosystems
that exist today. In western, production-driven societies such as
Australia, traditional ecological knowledge is not normally
recognised by mainstream resource managers and other bureaucrats
and scientists as a valid approach to ecosystem management.
Methodological approaches and methods are not yet finalised, and
a scoping study and selection of case study regions is under way.
This includes close liaison with Environment Australia to provide
continuity with its Best Practice in the Rangelands project (near
completion), and consultation with Indigenous communities, agencies
A literature review is being conducted to bring together recent
experiences in the use of Indigenous knowledge, and in
participation in stakeholder-based decision processes. I will take
a case study approach to this research with one or more Indigenous
groups from the tropical savanna region (and possibly one
comparative study outside the savanna region).
Specific methods for data collection will be negotiated with
Indigenous communities but will, subject to agreement, include
participant observation of communities in their efforts to work
with non-Indigenous bodies, in-depth interviews, questionnaires,
and consultation and collaboration with other natural resource
interests including Queensland Parks & Wildlife Service,
Environment Australia and regional catchment management and natural
resource management bodies.
A. Ross, University of Queensland
H. Ross, University of Queensland
B. Carter, University of Queensland