Aboriginal Organisations Share Desert Knowledge

Two Central Australian Aboriginal organisations have joined with the Desert Knowledge Cooperative Research Centre to create new research training, employment and enterprise opportunities for desert people.

They are Tapatjatjaka Community Governance Council, which runs Titjikala community near Alice Springs, and Waltja Tjutangku Palyapayi Aboriginal Association (Waltja), an Aboriginal women’s non-government organisation which supports families and services on remote Central Australian communities.

Jan Ferguson, the Managing Director of the CRC, welcomed Waltja and Titjikala as the newest affiliate partners of the national research network.

“The agreements with both organisations bring us a step closer to our goal of genuine participation of Aboriginal people in research that is useful to them”, she said. Tapatjatjaka Community Governance Council wants to tap into a broader knowledge network to develop their community.

Titjikala elder, Mr Johnny Briscoe, said he hoped the collaboration with the Desert Knowledge CRC would help his community.

“We like to see our projects to combine the best of our knowledge with the best of Western science. We think this is the best way forward”, he said. Titjikala, which already operates a successful cultural tourism business, is exploring the potential of traditional bush foods and medicines for enterprise development in partnership with the Desert Knowledge CRC.

Mr Briscoe became involved with the Desert Knowledge CRC when researchers started to work with his community on the Plants for People project.

The groundbreaking community development project provides research training, documents and protects Aboriginal knowledge about bush medicines and investigates the plants’ medicinal properties and commercial potential.

The Desert Knowledge CRC and its new research partners have agreed on stringent protocols that protect the intellectual property each organisation brings to the collaboration.

They also ensure that the rights to jointly developed intellectual property are shared equally between partners.

Earlier this month, Waltja and the Desert Knowledge CRC held the first in a series of research training workshops for Waltja members from remote communities, with further workshops with Desert Knowledge scientists planned for September.

Waltja wants Aboriginal people to work as researchers on Desert Knowledge projects. Sharijn King, Waltja’s manager, said their Research Nintiringtjaku (“clever for research”) inititative helps local people to get employment, training and accreditation while they are supporting research projects.

“It is important that Aboriginal people get recognition and proper payment for the support they give to researchers. Waltja is happy to be in partnership with Desert Knowledge CRC and for the CRC to support our Research Nintiringtjaku initiative”, she said.

The Desert Knowledge CRC, which recently funded the successful Town Camp Mobility Study by Aboriginal researchers from Tangentyere Council in Alice Springs, believes that research that is initiated and driven by those who are most affected by it can produce more accurate and relevant results.

Ms Ferguson said it was very encouraging to hear that many of the town camp residents who had worked on the mobility study have found work on the Census.

“We’re keen to work with our new partners to develop the skills base of their membership through registered training and employment opportunities, but also to build the capacity of our scientists to collaborate in research projects with remote communities.”

Media contact:

Sharijn King, Waltja Tjutangku Palyapayi, 8953 4488 or 0429 128 226

Harry Scott, Tapatjatjaka Community Governance Council, 08 8956 0844 or 0416 094 300

Jan Ferguson, Desert Knowledge CRC, 08 8950 7162 or 0401 719 882

Elke Wiesmann, Desert Knowledge CRC, 08 8950 7142 or 0427 009 240