From the desk of the Managing Director in December

Dear Network Member,

Every month from now on I’ll be sending you an email to keep you up to date with what’s happening at the Desert Knowledge CRC.

Commonwealth Review

An eventful year for the Desert Knowledge CRC has ended on a very positive note. The report from the independent Commonwealth Review team chaired by Dr John Childs is just in, and I’m pleased to say we’ve passed with flying colours.

The review found that we have performed extremely well in our first three years of operation and, while established as a public good CRC, some of our research projects are likely to lead to the development of commercial processes and products.

It endorsed our priorities for the future and commented that we have developed the strong relationships with stakeholders and reputation for making a sensitive and productive contribution that are a prerequisite for the successful conduct of social action research.

The review panel commended our ”unique achievements in engaging Aboriginal people in research, an outcome that is expected to be enduring”. It said this was “an achievement no other organisation or CRC could have created” because others “undertake research but do not achieve diffusion amongst local Aboriginal communities”.

These findings were backed up by an industry survey which found that we:

  • are very well connected to end users and are creating significant tangible and intangible value for them
  •  receive strong support from end users for our approach to collaboration and engagement with them • attract strong satisfaction from end users for our research communication and our strategies for achieving commercial outcomes from our research
  •  are strongly believed to deliver improvements to the desert economy through the development of new business.

We could not have achieved such an excellent result without the support of our partners. A big thank you to all of you who made yourselves available to talk to the review panel and all of you who work so hard so that we can achieve such positive results.

You can find a full copy of the report under the section Latest News on our homepage at .

Desert Knowledge Symposium

Last month’s Desert Knowledge Symposium was a resounding success. Developed in partnership with our sister organisation, Desert Knowledge Australia, the event brought 330 people to Alice Springs to share desert solutions from around the globe. It attracted healthy media interest as well as enthusiastic feedback from participants.

Several people told me it was the first conference in years at which they were not bored and where they wished they could have attended all sessions. Many commented positively on the diversity and quality of the presentations and the wide range and number of desert businesses and organisations who came to network and exhibit their services and products at the event’s Business Showcase.

A highlight for me and many others was Rose Kunoth-Monks’ moving keynote speech about the need for Aboriginal Australians to build a new identity as citizens of the globe. Rose is the chair of Batchelor Institute for Indigenous Tertiary Education and a board member of the Desert Peoples Centre. You can download her speech, Land and Culture – necessary but not enough, as well as other presentations, from .

Eleven international visitors presented on topics ranging from sustainable desert architecture to community-based tourism, and they began to develop links with our research. One exciting outcome is a planned exchange between community-based tourism organisations in Namibia and aspiring Aboriginal tourism operators from Central Australia.

New structure

The preparatory work for the Commonwealth Review highlighted the degree to which this CRC has developed, or is developing, commercial products. As a result of this I have decided, in consultation wit the Chair of the Board, to change the structure of the CRC.

We now have two general managers: a General Manager Research, Prof. Murray McGregor; and the newly created position of General Manager Commercialisation and Communication, Dr. Craig James.

All core projects, except for 2.3 (21st Century Pastoralism™), will report to Murray, while Craig will be responsible for the commercialisation and uptake of our research, and for our communications outcomes and contract research. He will also continue to manage core project 2.3.

The Education and Social Science Coordinators will continue to report to me as Managing Director to ensure their projects are truly integrated across the work of the Desert Knowledge CRC. The Program Manager positions have been abolished.

Undergraduate scholarships with Livelihoods inLand™

Flexible scholarships now are available for undergraduate students enrolled at partner universities of the Desert Knowledge CRC to work on our Livelihoods InLand™ research project.

If you know students who could assist with research into sustainable livelihoods through cultural and natural research management in the desert, please contact for further details.

New communications products

Our communications team has developed a range of new communications products this year. I invite you to visit our web site and see the range of fact sheets, reports and working papers, as well as our annual report that are now available.

The web site is also where you can find desert dirt, the new bi-annual glossy newsletter which we launched at the Desert Knowledge Symposium. If you prefer to receive a hard copy please subscribe at . Your feedback is always welcome.

Partners are encouraged to read the annual report at and to analyse their committment to the Desert Knowledge CRC.

Moving house

In the new year we will be moving into the new Business and Innovation Centre at the Desert Knowledge Precinct, just around the corner.

Our thanks go to the CSIRO Sustainable Ecosystems for having accommodated and looked after us for the past three-and-a-half years. Our colleagues from Desert Knowledge Australia, who will be moving in with us, will make sure that we don’t get too lonely in our new lodgings.

Already, the shell of the new building is clearly visible from the air as you touch down at the Alice Springs airport. What you can’t see is the Memorial Garden which the National Chief of Canada’s Assembly of First Nations, Phil Fontaine, and I helped local members of the stolen generation plant in October am particularly excited about the new $2.5 million solar demonstration plant which will not only power the precinct but feed surplus power into the electricity grid.

Holiday closure

Our office at the CSIRO will close from 22 December 2006 to 8 January 2007 to give our staff a complete break.

I trust you find this email useful in keeping you in touch with the Desert Knowledge CRC. If you would prefer not to receive these emails please got to and request to be removed. I value any feedback you may have.

In closing, I would like to pay tribute to our staff. We have a truly dedicated group of people who work tirelessly for their partner organisations and the Desert Knowledge CRC. Without them all of the above achievements would not have been possible. I wish them and you a relaxing break and a wonderful new year.