Technical report

File type: PDF

Archer R, Cooke P, Perry J (2022). Project 1.31: Indigenous participation and research needs. Report to the Reef and Rainforest Research Centre. Cairns, Queensland.



The authors of this report worked with Indigenous organisations and Individuals, National Environmental Research Program (NESP) Marine and Coastal Hub and the Australian Government to identify and summarise Indigenous priorities for marine and coastal regions around Australia. This included a desktop study that summarised 70 publicly available documents with marine and coastal Indigenous priorities from around Australia. Further detail was collated through the summary of priorities raised by participants in the Australian Marine Science Association Indigenous workshop held in Cairns (August 2022).

We identify support for the establishment and testing of a National Indigenous Environmental Research Network (NIERN) as a critical research priority. The intent of a NIERN is defined with a commitment to not replace or reinvent existing successful strong regional governance structures but value-add to the co-ordination of Indigenous partnerships and research needs at a national scale.

Indigenous priorities were regionally diverse responding to geographical threats and constraints. There were priorities that were common to all areas and the word cloud below illustrates the most common words when comparing all regions. Common priorities included a focus on management, using cultural governance, the protection of cultural and environmental values and sites, economic development and using research to better manage threats and plan for the protection of local values.

One of the common threads throughout this report is that national progress to incorporate Indigenous values and leadership has emerged from place-based priorities and activities. This highlights the need to resource national Indigenous-led processes that provides a means of contextualising place-based priorities and processes within regional, state, national and international processes. Indigenous-led approaches that aim to integrate complex local priorities with larger-scale processes are exemplified through approaches developed by the Indigenous Saltwater Advisory Group and the Strong Peoples Strong Country Framework (Jarvis et al. 2019). This report has highlighted significant effort by Indigenous people and organisations for more than 30 years that have culminated in Country based plans and research protocols that have been supported by peer review published research and a body of grey literature. There remains a question as to why this hasn’t led to broad-scale adoption of the recommendations highlighted in these documents and the NESP provides an opportunity to redress this through collaborative Indigenous-led research.

The report highlights research priorities that relate to four main focal areas, i) governance and decision-making, ii) data collection and management, iii) restoration of coastal ecosystems and iv) economic development.