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CDU alumni at work

Dr Jane Walker and PhD co-supervisor Dr Jocelyn Davies at the 2012 graduation ceremony in Alice Springs Dr Jane Walker and PhD co-supervisor Dr Jocelyn Davies at the 2012 graduation ceremony in Alice Springs


Jane Walker graduated in 2012 as one of CDU’s first Alice Springs-based doctoral students. Her thesis examined the partnership between the Central Land Council, the Australian Government and the Warlpiri People in relation to the management of the Northern Tanami Indigenous Protected Area, near Lajamanu. Now with the Glenelg Hopkins Catchment Management Authority in Victoria as their Partnerships Project Coordinator, Jane supports Indigenous groups and Traditional Owners to build capacity and undertake works that promote natural and cultural resource management in the region.


What prompted you to pursue a career in natural resource management?
I have always been interested in the environment and spent a lot of time camping in and visiting national parks, and being on my grandparent’s property in central Queensland as a child.

Tell a little about your time in South Africa where you were living at the time you applied for a doctoral research project in the Northern Territory.
I was doing an internship with South African National Parks, based in the Kgalagadi [Kgalagadi] Transfrontier National Park. I developed an environmental education program for the National Park to promote environmental awareness and encourage surrounding community members and school groups to use and value the park.

How has your experience examining the partnerships in the Tanami supported your work with Glenelg Hopkins?
My work with Glenelg Hopkins is all about relationships and developing successful and strong partnerships with Indigenous groups and communities for improved natural and cultural resource management. My research on the Northern Tanami IPA has provided me with a good theoretical understanding of the principles of successful partnerships, and the practical knowledge of how to better work with people to ensure that partnerships are equitable, realistic and respectful.

What has surprised you most about working in Indigenous land management?
I’m always encouraged by the strong connection that Indigenous people have to country, and the amount of goodwill and commitment that Indigenous and non-Indigenous colleagues have in moving forward and entrusting younger generations with ownership and the right knowledge and skills to manage country.

What do you find most challenging about your profession?
Working cross-culturally to achieve a variety of outcomes from natural and cultural resource management can be challenging. Sustaining relationships and support for management requires significant personal and professional investment, not only from me, but also from many others with whom I work. It also requires a lot of time and support, which is not always available. Having said that, working cross-culturally also brings much optimism, particularly through people reconnecting, visiting and using country in ways that are meaningful to them.

What would you tell someone who is thinking about undertaking a research project in the Indigenous land management field?
I would encourage researchers to make sure they invest significant time in developing relationships with Indigenous people, so that the research reflects their interests and is meaningful to them. I would also strongly recommend the use of co-researchers, so that Indigenous communities can benefit from the research in other ways, such as through employment and training.

If you were not a natural resource manager, what would you do instead?
I have always had a big interest in youth engagement through environment education, so I think I would probably be a geography teacher.

What interests you apart from your work?
I love being outdoors, travelling, camping and I enjoy spending time with my family. I also really enjoy long-distance hiking, and have done some amazing hikes with family and friends in Nepal, Namibia, South America and throughout Australia.

What is the best advice you have received and who offered it?
My partner Ewan once said to me: “What is it that you will remember on your death bed?” That question always comes to mind when I need to consider what is really important in my life.

Who or what inspires you?
My parents have always inspired me to follow my dreams and make the most out of the opportunities that I am given. They encouraged me to travel and see the world, and that has given me a great appreciation and love of cultural diversity.