Building Resilience in Indigenous Communities through Engagement: A Focus on Biosecurity Threats



Indigenous communities in Australia and New Zealand are constantly facing biosecurity threats from both naturally occurring new incursions and the human-mediated spread of existing pests, diseases and weeds.

In Northern Australia, the recent incursion such as the cucumber green mottle mosaic virus in cucurbit crops has caused extensive losses particularly to commercial melon growers. A Cavendish-attacking strain of banana freckle disease is the subject of an eradication campaign that involves the complete annihilation of all bananas grown in the Darwin area, a remedy which has a direct effect on all households and families, including Indigenous settlements that rely on home-grown fruit. Another example is the highly invasive weed Mimosa pigra, which has colonised large areas of productive grazing land and requires strong government management and community cooperation.

To implement response programmes to such incursions, it is essential that the agencies charged with controlling the incursions and the affected communities develop open communication, understanding and cooperation.

Both regulatory authorities and industry partners are seeking support and cooperation from Indigenous groups on incursion response strategies, particularly those that require the destruction of plants in household gardens.

This research, a CRC Plant Biosecurity joint project with Plant and Food Research, New Zealand, and the Northern Institute at Charles Darwin University, aimed to develop effective engagement with community, industry, government and research in biosecurity management to build resilience and manage risk.

More information available at


Aboriginal Indigenous Engagement Model

The Indigenous Australian engagement model was conceptualised from previous plant biosecurity operations of Mimosa pigra on Aboriginal land in the Northern Territory, which had buy-in from multiple agencies to eradicate biosecurity incursions. The work undertaken by the PBCRC Indigenous engagement team provides a knowledge base that can be implemented as policy. This has not been done before.

The Aboriginal Indigenous engagement model was designed to draw parallels between the immutable stages and principles of mirrwanna seed processing and the essential steps and principles of effective community engagement. The model included the rationale for each step and the underpinning values in Aboriginal culture. For the Warramirri, Mak Mak Marranunggu and other Yolŋu language groups, key values include Djakamirr (empowerment), Raypirri-Wadatj (discipline), Marri-Yulkthirr Ga Gurrutu (trust and relationships), Rom (authority), Nhama Manymakum (respect) and Gumurrkunhamirr (partnership).

The Aboriginal Indigenous engagement model aims to develop effective engagement with Indigenous communities by establishing cross-cultural linkages which provides a new, exciting and novel approach. It will enhance community resilience to biosecurity incursions that threaten traditional cropping practices and force the adoption of alternative cropping, surveillance and management technologies.

Click on the images to see the different steps and explanation for each

Peace Time Management (PTM)Rapid Response Time (RRT)

Below are a series of videos of the respective processes with narrative explanations by Aboriginal elder (Kathy Guthadjaka), drawing parallels between the seed-processing steps and the symbolic representation of engagement phases, while referencing the underpinning Aboriginal values were produced using the Tyikim language and the Mak Mak Marranunggu Tjuk Piyi knowledge. The videos focus on: 1) the welcome to country ceremony and sharing of food; 2) caring for country (e.g. understanding the time frames needed, ensuring the right quantity of pelangu), 3) preparing the pelangu to remove the cyanide and ready them for consumption, and 4) celebrating the food prepared.




Aboriginal Indigenous Engagement Model: ADVICE FOR BIOSECURITY WORKERS

IEM Manual CoverThe Aboriginal Indigenous Engagement Model merges traditional Indigenous knowledge and Western knowledge into a framework that is designed to protect the country and to manage biosecurity threats through ongoing collaboration and communication between key interest groups. The protection of land and country will ensure long-term benefits for key stakeholders today, tomorrow, and in the future.

This training manual has been produced as a result of discussions with the North Australian Quarantine Services, the Department of Agriculture and Water Resources, the Indigenous reference group, and the industry advisory group.

In this document, plant biosecurity extends beyond food security. It encompasses the natural flora of the Australian environment. The natural flora and fauna are important to many Indigenous Australians and are often culturally significant.

Consideration of the different response times to biosecurity incursions and threats is important, particularly given the remoteness of the Australian Indigenous communities, such as the Torres Strait Islands. Please keep in mind that the responses will differ between plant biosecurity, animal biosecurity, aquaculture and fishery threats due to transmission factors and boarder control.

Download here: WEB VERSION (2.53 MB) ; PRINT VERSION (7.78 MB)


NI researchers Linda & Chloe Ford celebrating International Women's Day 2018

Here's a wonderful pic of NI researchers Linda & Chloe Ford (left) celebrating International Women's Day 2018 on 8 March with Diane, Ceri, Nancy & Jeanine at a #Biosecurity Workshop on beautiful Thursday Island

TI Workshop group phote 1

Group pic of participants Thursday Island Biosecurity Workshop

TI Workshop group photo 5

Thursday Island Biosecurity Workshop

If you have any enquiries about the Aboriginal Indigenous engagement model please contact:

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