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.

The first phase of the project has produced a set of Indigenous engagement models. 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 image to see the different steps and explanation for each.

Aboriginal indigenous engagement model

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.




Impact Delivery Plan

Scientific research within Indigenous Communities relies on functional, respectful relationships and this can be achieved through the education of researchers and the establishment of protocols.

The extension to the Project in 2017/18 will use the engagement process in a suite of knowledge resources aimed at application of the principles and information contained in the model, as informed by stakeholder groups.

The extension project will undertake the following broad activities:

  • Establish support and reference networks to develop, enhance and grow familiarity and understanding of the Aboriginal Indigenous engagement model.
  • Adapt the Aboriginal Indigenous engagement model for tomato potato psyllid (TPP), myrtle rust, cucumber mottle mosaic virus, banana freckle and Panama disease tropical race 4.
  • Measure and evaluate the impact, uptake and adoption of the Aboriginal Indigenous engagement model.

For stakeholder  groups, the model will emphasise the need to develop trust and integrity in the complex web of management relationship and the ways they can achieve this.

This will enable a set of expectations that will set a minimum standard for the engagement. Management and decision making process. It is important for us to consult with different groups to identify variations to engagement, so the necessary adjustments can be made.

The research team will:

  • Accommodate feedback on the models from communities, stakeholders and end users,
  • evaluate and validate the models where a relationship has to be developed on order to gain cooperation for a particular outcome,
  • Present the models to Indigenous communities that have not been involved in the development of the model for comment and endorsement,
  • Present the models to government agencies involved in biosecurity for comment and suggestions and clarification of their specific needs,
  • Co-design and refine the models with a wider range of Indigenous communities so that regional differences in protocols can be accommodated,
  • Modify the models as suggested in feedback from various test groups, and
  • Publish the findings from this project for wider dissemination to the biosecurity research community.

We Appreciate Your Feedback!

Please spare a few minutes to complete a short survey HERE.

Other ways to provide your comments and feedback:

  • Provide your comments via Google Document. Click on or copy/paste the URL link: . You can comment anonymously in the google doc by following these steps: sign out of your Google ID or use a Chrome Incognito browser window and visit the document using the link provided to type into their browser. The editor would then appear as an "Anonymous animal" on the document.
  • Print out the Google Document and hand write comments, and scan/ email it back to us, or mail it to Dr Linda Ford, Northern Institute, Charles Darwin University, Ellengowan Drive, Casuarina, NT 0909
  • Download the Google Document as any document format you prefer (file-download as- select your preference) and edit with track changes and email it to us.
  • Download as a PDF version to add ‘sticky notes’ to and return it to us in an email.
  • You are also welcome to call or email your feedback directly to Dr Linda Ford on +61 8 8946 7203 or

Deadline: Friday 9th March 2018.


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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