Northern Research Futures CRN Projects



The collaborative alliance is at a higher research program level and papers developed collaboratively across the institutions within that collaborative context. Relative to the CRN themes, the projects have been split into the following;

Program 1: Liveability and Place in Northern Australia
Program 2: Demography and Change in Northern Australia

Program 3: Rethinking Regional Approaches to Development and Infrastructure
Program 4: Revitalising Social Infrastructure Programs in Northern Australia

Program 5: New Approaches to Governance in Northern Australia

Allocation of CRN NRF resources are linked to targeted project and research capacity development activities. The projects identified to date include the following. These projects developed over time and the final application may use a different name or link to other CRN NRF program theme areas.

1. Ecogenomic tracing of food webs

One of the projects that has emerged from the CRN is a joint project between CDU and AIMS funded by the North Australia Marine Research Alliance (NAMRA) and led by Dr Tom Rayner. This study is based on the hypothesis that bacteria in the environment and in the guts of animals have distinctive signatures that allow us to track where animals have been and who has eaten who – in other words reconstruct food webs.

Partners: ANU, CDU, AIMS, NT Fisheries

2. Environmental DNA

A spin-off from the NAMRA project has seen development of a new line of enquiry in environmental DNA. This cutting-edge technique involves filtering a cup of water collected from sites of interest, extracting DNA from the water and sequencing that DNA to identify the fish species present. The technique has potential for large-scale uptake in biosecurity and threatened species management across Northern Australia.

Partners: CDU (CRN), AIMS

3. Knowledge partnerships

A Fisheries Research and Development Corporation (FRDC) funded project still underway has shown that oysters around Goulburn Island accumulate metals and while this is a world-wide phenomena, the characteristics of accumulation are different in the pristine waters of north Australia compared to those in populated areas. We seek to help manage this phenomena using both traditional and science knowledge.

In parallel this project will explore the mechanisms involved in metal accumulation and the focus will be oyster diet as the route for metal accumulation.

Partners: CDU, Darwin Aquaculture Centre (NT Government), & local Aboriginal Corporation.

4. Identifying the key social and economic factors for successful engagement in aquaculture ventures by Indigenous communities

Aquaculture has long been held up as highly suitable for Indigenous enterprise development in remote communities for reasons that scope across social, cultural, economic and environmental factors. But despite concerted research and pilot trials using a range of species, there is little to show for these past efforts.

This project will identify the key factors needed to run a successful Indigenous aquaculture venture and work out the best way to engage with communities to ensure they get the best information.

Partners: CDU, NT Department of Primary Industry & Fisheries & local Aboriginal Corporation.

5. Demographic trends in northern Australia and workforce development

This symposium, project and book will investigate the relationship between economic development and urbanisation across northern Australia.

Partners:  CDU (CRN), NTG, JCU.

6. Climate Change Adaptation, Energy Futures and Carbon Economies

The CRC for Remote Economic Participation is interested to understand how adaptation can be pursued by remote communities so that maladaptation from short-term changes are avoided and instead long-term strategic decisions are made cognisant of the changing socio-economic and technical context of remote Australia. For example, current adaptation to hot weather is to moderate temperature extremes with energy intensive strategies, such as increasing the use of airconditioners. Yet the cost of conventional energy (electricity, diesel) in remote Australia is increasing, making many current adaptation strategies less affordable.

Partners: CDU, Ninti One/ CRC-REP

7. Social and economic assessment in northern Australian contexts.

Scoping jointly between the Cairns and the Northern Institute the potential northern Australian capabilities for the development of a cohesive Research Node/ Centre of Excellence for a Social Assessment in Resource Development Domains.

Developing a book and media strategy that draws on the projects to discuss the issues related to social and economic impact assessment learnt through the research projects.

Partners: CDU, JCU, NTG

8. Governance Reform for Northern Australia

This project led by Prof Allan Dale examines the opportunities for reform of governance systems in northern Australia, delivering both monograph and book outcomes.

Partners: James Cook University’s Cairns Institute and CDU’s Northern Institute.

9. Integration Climate Adaptation within Regional NRM Planning

Within the context of the Climate Adaptation Grants recently awarded to CDU and JCU, this project led by Prof Allan Dale will focus on ensuring an effective linkage between climate adaptation research and the next generation of regional NRM planning across the north.

Partners: JCU (TCI), JCU (TESS), CDU (RIEL), and GU. 

10. Tenure Reform across Northern Australia

Leadership and participation within a broad review of land tenure systems across northern Australia, reporting into the North Australian Ministerial Forum. This project is likely to lead to additional research proposals.  Project led by Prof Allan Dale.

Partners: JCU (TCI), CSIRO (Sustainable Ecosystems).   

11. Chasing the Winds

This collaboration between CDU and ANU is a modern history of weather and climate. Its geographical focus is northern Australia, East Timor and the broader Arafura/Timor and Maritime Continent regions; its period, from 1600 onwards.

In conjunction with a number of other projects – mostly maritime archaeology and marine biology – it investigates climate history with a view to understanding climate change. Using human documents, it aims to complement studies drawing on ecological archives.

Partners: Chris O’Brien (CDU), Karen Edyvane (National University of Timor Leste (UNTL)), Tom Griffiths (ANU) and Matthew Prebble (ANU).

12. Heat stress, alcohol use and economic participation among labour-intensive workers in tropical conditions: implications for the development of health policy

This project aims to identify the population-level impact of heat stress on the Top End and explore the relationship between heat stress, alcohol use and economic participation in the labour intensive workforce.

Funding: NT Department of Health, $27,127


  1. To collect and analyse population-level data to identify broad vulnerabilities to heat stress
  2. To identify the social mediation of heat stress in the workplace in order to inform health policy interventions.

Partners: Elspeth Oppermann (CDU), James Smith (CDU), Matt Brearley (National Critical Care and Trauma Response Centre.

13. Ocean Connections and New Cultures of Care   

The project aims to build a new dialogue between saltwater community understandings of place and place-based approaches to coastal planning.  It uses a creative research strategy to build a regionally innovative model of fragile environment management that incorporates cultural diversity into the definition and promotion of biodiversity.

Partners: Northern Territory Government, Fisheries Division, and East Arnhem Shire

14. National narratives about asylum seekers in Australia

This area of research seeks to reframe National narratives about asylum seekers who come to Australia across the seas from Indonesia. Ultimately it seeks to contribute rigorous, empirical social research findings to regional solutions on refugees including Indonesia, Malaysia and Australia.

Partner: CDU


15. Acquired brain injury assessment, education and prevention in northern Australia

The research team led by Dr Anne Stephens and Dr India Bohanna submitted their final report to the National Disability Insurance Scheme (DisabilityCare Australia), Assessment of acquired brain injury in Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Australians: Guidance for DisabilityCare Australia.  

Partners: Collaboration with JCU School of Public Health, Psychology, The Cairns Institute

16. Infant abusive head trauma in northern Australia

This project seeks to implement and evaluate the United States programme:  The Period of PURPLE Crying, a brief education programme for parents of new-borns delivered by health care professionals.  The intervention is being trialled in far north Queensland.  

Partners: Collaboration between Dr Stephens and The Cairns Institute and Queensland Health and others TBA

17. Substance misuse and therapeutic intervention in northern Australia

Dr Anne Stephens has led a research team at the Cairns Institute submitted their final report for Lives Lived Well Australia Inc., to evaluate the outcomes of alcohol and drug rehabilitation services in far north Queensland.

Partners: Collaboration with JCU School of Public Health, Psychology and The Cairns Institute, Lives Lived Well, and researchers the University of Newcastle.

18. Training for impact: Adult education and community development

Dr Anne Stephens’ work continues with Wontulp bi-Buya College in Cairns, evaluating the impact of adult education and training in the field of community development and organisation, leadership and addictions management.  

Two commissioned evaluations have been submitted for funding bodies:  TEAR Australia and the Healing Foundation.

Stephens, A. (2014). Training for impact: Building an understanding of community development training and Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander community development outcomes. Cairns: James Cook University. DOI 10.13140/2.1.2989.9208

Stephens, A. (2014). Training for impact: Healing and recovery from trauma through training. Cairns: James Cook University.

The College obtained funding from the National Suicide Prevention strategy to establish and deliver training in Cert 3 Mental Health (Suicide Prevention) that will develop whole-of-community based suicide prevention plan.  A programme evaluation report will be submitted in June 2015.

Partners: Collaboration between Dr Stephens (TCI), Wontulp Bi-Buya College, TEAR Australia, The Healing Foundation, DoHA National Indigenous Suicide Prevention Strategy

19. Remote Indigenous Gardens (RIG) Network

Dr Anne Stephens has maintained an active engagement with the RIG network helping to establish its presence on Cape York and assist in the development of quality, well-researched resources. She contributed to and reviewed Food and other gardens in and about remote communities. A Guide – planning considerations and project opportunities is commissioned by the Department of Families, Housing, Community Services and Indigenous Affairs, published October, 2013.

Partners: JCU & FoodSwell Inc. t/a the RIG network

20. Accounting for Agriculture in place-based frameworks for regional development

The research team lead by Jim Turnour has completed focus group workshops in Canberra, Brisbane and Innisfail with transcript analysis completed. The team is now undertaking an online survey and a series of case studies in the pilot region the Wet Tropics of North Queensland.  Case studies include: (i) sugar / dairy industry; (ii) agri-tourism; (iii) natural resource management; and (iv) supply chain

Partner: JCU

21. RAPA Indigenous Heritage Program 

Prof Allan Dale (PI) and Jim Turnour are supporting the Rainforest Aboriginal Peoples' Alliance implement a project designed to promote Aboriginal rainforest peoples' cultural values. He is supporting the economic development components of the project working in partnership with RAPA to explore the economic opportunities that are available to Aboriginal people within the context of these cultural values.

Partners: JCU & Rainforest Aboriginal Peoples' Alliance

22. Valuing Darwin Harbour in a time of rapid social and economic change

This project identifies how people value Darwin Harbour and where in the Harbour these values exist. It also builds models of how anthropogenic change occurring in the catchments is likely to affect the identified values.

Partners: Australian Institute of Marine Science, Michael Douglas (TRaCK/RIEL), in-kind from Territory NRM, and endorsement from NT Environment Centre and Amateur Fishermen's Association of the Northern Territory.

23. ARC LP130100735 Improved Indigenous population projections for effective policy and planning

This project will use a range of methods to better understand the population dynamics of the Australian Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander (Indigenous) population. This information will allow policy makers to better plan and target resources and help Indigenous organisations understand what is happening to the population in their community.

Partners: Australian National University, Dept of Social Services, Charles Darwin University, & University of Queensland

24. Social resilience benchmarking in the Northern Gulf region (2014)

To update and expand upon the existing social resilience benchmarking with the most current and best available data and evidence, providing a current assessment of the social resilience of Gulf communities against a set of prescribed indicators, with reference to climate change drivers.

Partners: Allan Dale JCU (TCI), Gulf Horizons Foundation

25. Linda Ford ARC Discovery Indigenous 2015

The project led by Dr Linda Ford aims to develop and implement suitable Indigenous frameworks for the preservation, interpretation and dissemination of the recordings of ceremonial performances in the Wagait-Daly region of the Northern Territory of Australia. The focus is a body of recordings, made by early anthropologists and missionaries, of final mortuary ceremony performances. The ceremonial performance is a key process for integrating Indigenous knowledge from many different domains, a socially powerful site of exchange, transmission and transformation of relationship to country, kin and identity. The aim is to extend the power of ceremony in order to benefit Indigenous people's identity and Australia's shared history in the future.

Funding: ARC Discovery $99,537

Partners: TBA

26. Doctoral Research Project: Indigenous Cultural Activity Counts

The thesis seeks to establish methodology to value cultural activity or practice to Aboriginal people, using choice modeling of the preferences of Aboriginal people living in a remote area of northern Australia for paid employment relative to unpaid or paid cultural practice.

27. Doctoral Research Project: Indigenous Economic Development and Sustainable Livelihoods for Northern Australia

This research will analyse and critique government Indigenous economic development policy and the context in which this policy is developed and implemented in northern Australia. Current Indigenous economic development policy is contested. Indigenous peak bodies and academic literature lend support to alternative policy approaches, including the broader concept of sustainable livelihoods. The majority of this research however, has been focused on Indigenous communities, peoples and livelihoods rather than directly on government policies and processes. There has also been limited research into Indigenous economic development in the Wet Tropics of North Queensland the case study region.

28. Doctoral Research Project: Transnational-Home: A study of Sri Lankan immigrants and process of integration


29. Doctoral Research Project: Exploring the Development of a Heat Stress Warning and Management Tool for Northern Australia

This is an interdisciplinary doctoral research project that explores the development of a ‘Heat Stress Warning and Management Tool’ for the monsoonal north of Australia. This project provides the research needed to produce a public communication tool for heat stress risk that is appropriate for the unique conditions of the monsoonal north region, including the ‘Top End’ of the Northern Territory. The PhD student will work with the Supervision team and project collaborators at the Bureau of Meteorology to identify how such a tool should be created.

Funding: Operational funding awarded, NT Department of Health, $11,000.

Partners: CDU, NTG Dept of Health

30. Perceptions about heat stress and its economic consequences for people living in tropical humid Australia

Funding: LEBA Faculty Small Research Grant, $3,900.

Partners: Elspeth Oppermann (CDU), Kerstin Zander (CDU)

31. The Role of Social Practice in managing heat stress exposure in Top End Labour intensive workforces

Funding: LEBA Faculty Small Research Grant, $3,464.

Partners: Elspeth Oppermann (CDU), Matt Brearley (National Critical Care and Trauma Response Centre)

32. Identifying the livelihood and land-and sea management aspirations of Indigenous owners of coastal and marine estates

Funding: LEBA Faculty Small Research Grant, $4,000

Partners: Jackie Gould (CDU), Djelk rangers, Mardbalk rangers, & Crocodile Island rangers

33. Informing climate adaptation policy-making in relation to extreme event adaptation

Funding: LEBA Faculty Small Research Grant, $2,000

Partners: Supriya Mathew & Rolf Gerritsen (CDU)


34. The economic burden of heat related performance reduction

Funding: LEBA Faculty Small Research Grant, $3,998

Partners: Kerstin Zander & Elspeth Oppermann (CDU), Tord Kjellstrom (ANU), & Wouter Botzen (VU University Amsterdam)


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