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Northern Institute

Past projects

Rohan Fisher

Research that matters is underpinned by a deep understanding of partners’ and communities' strengths and challenges, an understanding of complexity in regional and remote areas and a clear focus on accurate, at times challenging, analysis for communities, industry and governments.

2022 projects

The role of song in Kaytetye and Warlpiri bio-cultural knowledge
Davenport Rangers waterway near Barkly/ Tenant Creek

Image: Davenport Creek

This project aims to integrate Indigenous Ecological Knowledge with Indigenous ceremonial knowledge in two central Australian Aboriginal languages: Kaytetye and Warlpiri. With a multidisciplinary team and by building on existing lexical and musical corpora, the project expects to produce the first bio-cultural monographs. Identification of biota and human uses of them will be expanded with their song, site of origin and kinship affiliation; thus advancing knowledge of how societies interact with the natural world and the role of music in retaining knowledge.

Associate Professor Linda Ford 

Project funding

Funder/sUniversity of Sydney

The Endangered Languages of Makarrata
Sign with Makarrata from 2017 National Constitutional Convention

Image: Sign with Makarrata from 2017 National Constitutional Convention ANTaR

Exploring the ancient Yolŋu practice of Makarrata, we will create opportunities for Yolŋu elders from eight endangered languages to teach and document key aspects of the languages, history and philosophy of conflict resolution, and work with Yolŋu digital artists to create a website and documentary movie.

Gawura Wanambi, Joy Bulkanhawuy, Professor Michael Christie, Emma Murphy, Associate Professor Michaela Spencer, Yasunori Hayashi

Project funding

Department of Infrastructure, Transport, Regional Development and Communications and the Arts

Planning for sustainable development and biodiversity on the Tiwi Islands
aerial shot of tiwi islands river system

Planning for sustainable development is critical to reconciling economic, social and conservation goals worldwide, but is complex, particularly on Indigenous lands with strong ties between people and nature. In partnership with the Tiwi Land Council, this project aims to develop participatory methods for land-use planning to support sustainable economic development and biodiversity conservation. We will develop ecological and economic models, integrating Indigenous and scientific knowledge, to evaluate scenarios of land-use against biodiversity and socio-economic goals, including draft Indigenous Protected Areas. The project will benefit understanding of trade-offs in sustainable development, particularly on Australia’s Indigenous estates.

Associate Professor Michaela Spencer

Project funding

Deakin University

Modularised cultural heritage archives - future proofing PARADISEC (Pacific and Regional Archive for Digital Sources in Endangered Cultures)
Stack of old records to be transcribed

This project will build an innovative modularised infrastructure to implement standards of data governance for cultural heritage records. This new infrastructure aims to build on the award-winning Pacific and Regional Archive for Digital Sources in Endangered Cultures collection and to capitalise on new technologies for metadata harvesting, temporal mapping, crowdsourced metadata, and automated transcription. The project expects to promote national and international research collaboration with Australian archiving communities and to build capacity in Pacific cultural institutions. The project will benefit research data communities across the sector as well as community custodians of cultural heritage collections.

Professor Steven Bird 

Project funding

University of Melbourne

Exploring monitoring and management opportunities in the Northern Territory barramundi fishery to incorporate Aboriginal people's values and aspirations
Hand holding a barramundi with hook in its mouth

The Northern Territory (NT) Barramundi Fishery makes an important social, cultural and economic contribution to the diverse communities of the NT. It is 30 years since the implementation of the NT Barramundi Fishery Management Plan and a review is currently underway which will develop a new management framework and Harvest Strategy.

85% of the NT coastline is adjacent to Aboriginal Land which extends to the low water mark and encompasses key barramundi fishing grounds. Traditional Owners (TOs) have historically raised significant concerns about their ability to participate in commercial fisheries and fisheries management, intrusion by fishermen into sacred sites, the ecological impacts of the Fishery, and food security concerns.

These concerns are key issues which the Barramundi Fishery Management Advisory Committee (BFMAC) must address during the review. The BFMAC require access to the best available information so they can engage with TO perspectives and understand what impact any recommendations may have on TOs and Indigenous communities. However, the logistical and cross-cultural challenges of engaging with TOs and remote communities are significant.

This project is a partnership between Charles Darwin University (CDU), the Fisheries Division of the Department of Industry, Tourism and Trade (NT Fisheries, NTF), and the Northern Land Council (NLC). It will address this need by consulting with TOs on key aspects of the fishery which are subject to the review including consideration of historic concerns and how these may be addressed within a revised management framework and newly developed Harvest Strategy. Engagement with the BFMAC will create an enabling and solutions-focused environment for the implementation of TO­ driven approaches.

This research will use two-way knowledge exchanges to build the capacity of and understandings between TOs and other stakeholders and provide insight into how Indigenous perspectives and needs can be better incorporated into fishery management reviews. It will develop a methodology for Indigenous engagement which can be applied across other NT fisheries, enabling Indigenous peoples to better inform the development of equitable fisheries management frameworks in the NT.


Jacqueline Gould | Rachel Groom 

Project funding



Fisheries Research and Development Corporation (Commonwealth)

Looking after Sea Country – Mapping and protecting the values of the Djelk Indigenous Protected Area and the Arnhem Marine Park
NI image only_Manatee Dugong Sea Country


Jacqueline Gould | Rachel Groom 

Project funding



Department of Agriculture, Water and the Environment (Commonwealth)

Investigating Blue Carbon Opportunities in the NT
NI image only_Blue carbon project Darwin harbour pic

This project is a collaboration with Charles Darwin University (CDU),
Northern Australian Indigenous Land and Sea Management Alliance (NAILSMA)
and the University of Queensland to investigate Blue Carbon resources, and
opportunities for engaging in the Blue Carbon market in northern Australia, with
a focus on the Northern Territory (NT). The project has three phases: 

  • An NT Blue Carbon Review, Spatial Assessment and Site Prioritisation
  • Trade-off Analysis, Communication and Research Plan
  • Knowledge Gaps and Applied Research

The term ‘Blue Carbon’ (BC) recognises the ability of vegetated coastal ecosystems (VCE); mangroves, saltmarshes, and seagrasses to capture and store large amounts of carbon in their soils and biomass. Given their anoxic sediment, BC ecosystems can sequester two to four times more carbon per hectare and store it 30-50 times faster than terrestrial forests. As such, restoration of degraded VCEs can result in significant rates of carbon sequestration, reduction of greenhouse gases (GHG) emissions, and return the ecosystem services provided by VCE (Lovelock et al., 2017; Macreadie et al., 2019).

Land use and land cover has impacted BC ecosystems globally resulting in enhanced GHG emissions and the loss of the ecosystem services that BC provides. The Australian Government recognises the significance of BC ecosystems and have developed a BC method (Tidal Restoration of Blue Carbon Ecosystems Method, Australian Government, 2021) under the Emissions Reduction Fund (ERF). The method is reliant on reversing anthropogenically introduced tidal restrictions that have degraded BC ecosystems. Restoring tidal flows by removing or modifying restriction mechanisms such as sea walls, bunds, drains, or tidal gates to enable natural successional processes to re- establish VCEs. A BC project achieves carbon abatement by:

  • increasing the carbon stored in soil and vegetation relative to a degraded baseline condition
  • avoiding emissions from soils as they are re-wetted, or as freshwater wetlands are returned to saline wetlands
  • earning Australian Carbon Credit Units for the increased soil carbon and avoided GHG emissions from degraded VCE following the implementation of the project.

The BC method under the ERF is in its infancy and methods will be refined and adopted in coming years as data becomes more robust. Thus, future methods will provide more accurate GHG abatement and improve the estimates of avoided emissions from restoration.

In northern Australia, we are uniquely positioned to expand the BC method to also account for restoration of degraded coastal habitats including freshwater wetlands that have been damaged by non-native feral ungulates (buffalo, pigs, horses, donkeys, camels). This is a growing issue in northern Australia with feral animal populations continuing to degrade Indigenous lands and areas of conservation significance (Ens et al. 2016). Development of such a method holds promise for additional remediation and protection of coastal and inland wetlands across northern Australia.


Rachel Groom | Lindsay B. Hutley | Benjamin Brown | Rohan Fisher | Kamaljit Sangha

Project funding



INPEX Operations Australia Pty Ltd

Biodiversity Conservation Specialist Research Services
NI image only_Mangrove Northern Territory

Bawinanga is a progressive Aboriginal corporation based in Maningrida (NT). It is the major service provider for the Aboriginal people living on the 32 homelands surrounding Maningrida in West Arnhem Land.

Stipulated as part of the Ichthys LNG Project's environmental approval (2011) INPEX must achieve environmental offsets for the loss of habitat on Bladin Point through the protection of approximately 2000 hectares of terrestrial vegetation and mangroves as well as for the protection and management of marine habitat for inshore dolphins, marine turtles and dugongs. 

In this project, our researchers will undertake community consultation and engagement, biodiversity surveys and protected area planning with Bawinanga Aboriginal Corporation to assist them to develop and manage a Conservation Agreement Area for 40 years in accordance with INPEX's Coastal Offset Strategy.

A dedicated group of 23 Bawinanga “Djelk” land and sea rangers will  implement the conservation program. 


Rachel Groom |  Jacqueline Gould 

Project funding



INPEX Operations Australia Pty Ltd

Indigenous Cross-Cultural Higher Education Engagement – CDU/BIITE’s collaborative HEPPP mapping project
First Nations Success Project Website image

This research project will run over 3 years (2022-24). The purpose of the project is to increase the Higher Education (HE) participation rates of low socio-economic status (SES), Indigenous and regional and remote students at CDU and the Bachelor Institute of Indigenous Tertiary Education.  

The project aims to:

  • Promote equality and improve the opportunities for Indigenous people to participate, remain, and succeed in HE, and graduate.
  • Complete desktop audit of CDU/BIITE Partnership in Northern Territory (NT) Indigenous HE, such as what the HE landscape looks like for Indigenous people.
  • Work with one community to complete mapping of HE graduates stories, experiences, and employability.
  • For one community, the project team will do the mapping and look for impediments to HE access.
  • Build strategies based on feedback from the mapping process for how to engage people in the community with HE learning.
  • Build and apply mapping model tailored to community and individual Indigenous graduate needs. This will inform policy strategies and pathways to ensure Indigenous Australians are given access to HE.
  • Complete mapping of HE graduates stories, experiences, and build strategies informed by graduates in the community that will enhance HE participation in that community.


Linda Ford | Kathy (Gotha) Guthadjaka | Tracy Woodroffe | David Karacsonyi

Project funding



Higher Education Participation and Partnerships Program (HEPPP)


Scoping Requirements for NT Remote and Very Remote Disaster Waste Management
Scoping Requirements for NT Remote and Very Remote Disaster Waste Management.png

This project identifies critical path decisions, key workplan requirements and priority areas for inclusion in disaster waste management policy and plans for remote and very remote NT communitie. Researchers will create a checklist/handbook for disaster waste management preparation.


Deepika Mathur | Akhilesh Surjan

Project funding



Northern Territory Department of the Chief Minister and Cabinet

Effective Enrolment Review
Effective Enrolment Review Project 2022


Ruth Wallace | Andrew Taylor

Project funding



Deloitte Financial Advisory Pty Ltd for Department of Education (NTG) 

Establishing a pathway from Secondary School (VET) to a Bachelor of Education (Teaching)
Establishing a pathway from Secondary School (VET) to a Bachelor of Education (Teaching)


Tracy Woodroffe | Linda Ford | Johanna Funk  

Project funding



Higher Education Participation and Partnerships Program (HEPPP)

Developing a National Koala Monitoring Program (NKMP)
NI image only_Koala Project photo

In this project the researcher will develop a National Koala Monitoring Program (NKMP) working in 4-6 pilot sites in the Riverina (NSW) and North - East Victoria region in locations identified by CSIRO to have potential Koala habitat.  

The program of work will analyse available literature on the benefits and challenges of using citizen science to monitor threatened species to provide a review of the different citizen science methods that are available in the scientific literature. This research will include an assessment of the efficacy of these methods to provide 1) accurate species population estimates and 2) support local community and landholder engagement in monitoring and habitat restoration efforts. 

The researcher will engage with and support local landholders and citizen scientists to assess koala populations in potential koala habitat areas identified by CSIRO NKMP team. Plus also assist the CSIRO NKMP team with drone surveys in areas where evidence (sightings of Koalas, scat or tree scratches) of Koala populations are found.

Additional support will be provided relating to drone and citizen science data analysis and integration and communication of this material to relevant communities and landholders.

Working with CSIRO appropriate stakeholders (eg Landcare groups) and landholders will be identified in potential Koala habitat where there are gaps in Koala population data estimates. The researcher will then:

  • work with local groups to supported targeted citizen science reports and on-ground double count surveys
  • supply the location and number of koala populations in selected sites

The project will conclude with preparation of a joint CSIRO-CDU and project partner case-study document that compares and highlights the contribution of targeted citizen science and drone surveys for Koala population assessments.


Jennifer Macdonald

Project funding



Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation (CSIRO) for the Department of Agriculture Water and the Environment (DAWE)

2021 projects

Indigenist Archaeology: New Ways of Knowing the Past and Present
Aboriginal rock art

This project aims to explore how Indigenous Australian worldviews can transform archaeological practice and understandings of the past.

Archaeological research practice typically relies on Western science, theories and interpretive frameworks. As an alternative approach, we will develop a new epistemological conceptualisation for how archaeology can be practised.

Based on surveys and interviews with six Aboriginal communities in the Northern Territory and South Australia, and using Indigenous theories and concepts, the project will identify and explore how Aboriginal ways of knowing (epistemology), being (ontology) and doing (axiology) can be integrated into a new model for archaeological research that we call “Indigenist Archaeology”.


  • Develop a new epistemological conceptualisation for archaeological practice in Australia.
  • Develop a model that more accurately reflects the ontologies of the people who created the objects/images/places currently held to constitute “the archaeological record” (i.e. “the past”).
  • Provide a deeper understanding of how our interpretations of the past in the present are embedded in distinct worldviews that derive from distinct epistemologies, ontologies and axiologies.
  • Create a substantial scholarly community in Indigenist archaeology, one with the potential to make a step-change, nationally and internationally.


Kellie Pollard | Nicolas Bullot

Project funding


Caring for Cosmologies: Making Living Maps for West Miyarrka
A hand drawing in the sand

This project aims to develop a new kind of digital mapping to document endangered forms of knowledge along a coastline under threat from climate change. The project expects to draw on unique Yolŋu knowledge practices and representational systems - with traditional owners and managers guiding digital media experts, rangers and artists.


  • To undertake a coastal survey to identify and name key sites with traditional owners over a 130km stretch of the Arnhem Land coast.
  • To record oral histories and environmental knowledge of these sites.
  • To assess climate change-related damage and the threat to these sites.
  • To create a new genre of map drawing from Yolŋu representational styles.
  • To produce a series of these maps and a community archive of materials associated with these processes and places as a resource for new generations of Yolŋu leaders.
  • To assess the value of these maps in intergenerational and intercultural governance contexts and negotiations.
  • To create a public exhibition of these maps and materials, curated with Yolŋu researchers.
  • To contribute to international efforts to decolonise cartography by Indigenous people and others.


Gawura Waṉambi | Joy Bulkanhawuy | Jennifer Deger | Michael Christie | Michaela Spencer | Benjamin Ward

Project funding


Remote & Regional Community Growth Planning: Industry, Jobs, Skills & Training
A home

A suite of projects funded by the Department of Industry, Tourism and Trade (DITT) is contributing to the identification, analysis and access to useful data and information for NT regional decision-making and growth planning, and to providing tools and pathways to support local employment.

In line with the Territory Economic Reconstruction Commission (TERC) recommendations, one project is preparing six regional workforce profiles using secondary data from the Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) Census, the NT Remote Towns Jobs Profiles and the National Centre for Vocational Education Research (NCVER) VOCSTATS databases. These profiles aim to identify skills, capabilities, and jobs for each region to support the regional economic growth planning process.

Another project is developing an online tool to support the collection, collation, and analysis of both existing and future collections of remote town jobs profiles data. This project will also provide training to Northern Territory Government (NTG) regional officers who will support local businesses in their data reporting.

A digital ‘Skills Passport’ supporting job seekers to showcase their existing skills and knowledge is being co-designed by stakeholders in both the Barkly and Big Rivers regions. This pilot project is being designed for jobs requiring a range of vocation skill levels and employment experience in three industry sectors, Community Services, Agriculture, Horticulture and Land Management, and Construction, Essential Services and Maintenance. The ‘Skills Passports’ will be trialled and evaluated with both job seekers and employers in the regions.

A further pilot project is trialling the delivery of a Vocational Education and Training (VET) traineeship or like-traineeship using vocational pathways to support the attainment of a Diploma of Educational Studies to strengthen the Remote Aboriginal Teacher Education (RATE) program.


Pascal Tremblay | Alicia Boyle | Fiona Shalley | Pawinee Yuhun | Ruth Wallace

Project funding


Indigenous-led Sea Country Management: Protecting Australia's Marine Estate
Australian coast

This project aims to understand and support the aspirations and achievements of Sea Country Traditional Owners in leading the management of their marine and coastal estates. The project expects to generate new approaches to marine management based on Indigenous knowledge and governance systems and reconceptualise marine spatial and conservation planning methodologies.

Expected outcomes include solutions to problems faced by Indigenous and non-Indigenous marine managers working in remote and cross-cultural spaces and supporting governments to implement effective and equitable legal and policy frameworks.

This may provide significant cultural, environmental and economic benefits to Traditional Owners, governments and the Australian community.


  • To characterise how Sea Country Traditional Owners are or wish to manage marine and coastal systems, including the values which they seek to manage, and how they wish to lead partnerships with government or other agencies.
  • To reconceptualise marine planning and management approaches so they better reflect Indigenous ways of knowing and governing marine systems.
  • To provide practical solutions to marine management problems which support Indigenous and non-Indigenous managers to work collaboratively together.
  • To understand the legal and policy constraints to Indigenous-led Sea Country Management.


Michael Christie | Jacqueline Gould

Project funding


Rangingur: a Yolŋu Digital Art of Renewal
The sea

The Yolŋu word rangingur means coming from the beach. This collaboration with Yolŋu researchers seeks to enrich Australia's understanding of the beach as a critical zone of Indigenous history, identity, and environmental knowledge.

Concerned that they face a devastating tipping point, participants seek to use co-creative methods to document endangered songs, stories, and beach environments. New knowledge will be produced about Indigenous observations of - and responses to - environmental threats.

Outputs will include a website co-designed by ritual and digital experts. Multiple generations of Yolŋu families and the broader Australian community will benefit as this project models new ways of caring for coastal futures.


  • Advance understandings of the beach as a critically endangered zone of Indigenous knowledge and belonging.
  • Create a digital archive of threatened songs, stories and ecological knowledge relating to three ancestral beach sites in east Arnhem Land.
  • Use co-creative methods to produce new forms of Yolŋu art and performance from this archive that will be suitable for public release on a website.
  • Investigate a Yolŋu hypothesis that the Internet offers a yet to be fully exploited site of performance and perpetuity. Do this by co-designing a website as a 'garma', or public ceremony ground with ritual and digital experts working on country and in community.
  • Critically expand existing scholarship on digital archives and online cultural heritage.
  • Contribute to emerging international scholarship on the Indigenous Anthropocene.
  • Deepen and widen the foundational place of the beach within the Australian national imaginary by bringing innovative Indigenous perspectives on the work of caring for vulnerable beach country into public view and discussions.


Jennifer Deger

Project funding



Northern Territory Social Outcomes Research
A crowded street

In 2021, the Northern Territory Government released a Territory-wide Social Outcomes Framework to measure, summarise, report and monitor the wellbeing of Territorians across time. A number of data gaps were highlighted, as well as the need for a Social Capital Index to provide a measure of overall social inclusion for the Territory population as a whole, and for other groups such as the Aboriginal population, men and women, and broad life-stages.

The Demography and Growth Planning research team were engaged to: develop and operationalise a social survey relevant to the collection of these identified data gaps; build a social capital index that is appropriate to the diversity and uniqueness of the Territory’s population; and construct a public-facing data dashboard of the Framework’s domains, outcomes, indicators and measures, including brief analytical summaries and data notes.

The online My Territory Connections survey ( was launched in November 2021 and includes content on people’s connections to their family, friends and community, their community participation and civic engagement, their attachment and feelings of belonging to where they live, and measures of trust and community cohesion.

Interviewer-facilitated collection activities will run alongside the online survey. Results will be summarised and, with other data sources, used to populate the data dashboard to allow measurement of change and progress across time. The Social Outcomes Framework has been designed to identify inequities and vulnerabilities in different population groups and to inform appropriate service responses. The first dashboard and project reports are will be delivered in April 2023.


Andrew Taylor | Fiona Shalley | George Tan | Sigurd Dyrting

Project funding


Exploring and Improving Processes for Speakers of Aboriginal Languages to Influence the Safety and Quality of their Health Care (EQuaLS)
Silhouette of a child

There is an increasing commitment within health services to collecting patient experience data to inform health service improvement and, subsequently, health outcomes. The quality of information obtained through patient experience data collection is crucially important in ensuring that Aboriginal people are genuinely engaged in health service development and evaluation.

In response to a recognised need to assess the effectiveness of current patient experience data collection tools adapted for use with speakers of First Nations languages, a critical review of two patient experience survey tools was conducted in EQuaLS Phase 1.

This collaborative study, engaging First Nations language experts, revealed serious limitations in the acceptability and translatability of the surveys for capturing authentic patient experience information from speakers of First Nations languages.

Extensive practical challenges - in adapting a text-based survey for oral administration and achieving equivalence of meaning between English and First Nations language versions of the survey tools - were further compounded by a lack of congruence between survey methods and cultural communication protocols.

Drawing on the findings from Phase 1, the aim of Phase 2 is to co-design, trial and evaluate feasible strategies for improving processes for speakers of Aboriginal languages to influence the safety and quality of their health care through gathering authentic patient experience information.

A summary of Phase 1 findings was shared with stakeholders during 2021, resulting in policy and practice changes that will be further informed through the collaborative process and findings from Phase 2. Phase 2, commencing in June 2022, will also include developing and evaluating training and resources for health staff about working effectively with interpreters and using plain English.


Anne Lowell | Lawurrpa (Elaine) Maypilama | Rosemary Gundjarranbuy Daisy Bandaka Gondarra | Helen Nyomba | Yenhu Gaylene Gurruwiwi | Emily Armstrong

Project funding


Academic Review for Future Waste Management Strategies for West Arnhem Regional Council

This project was initiated by West Arnhem Regional Council (WARC) to understand waste management in the context of Northern Australia and utilise existing infrastructure more efficiently. The project will be conducted in two stages.

The first stage is a desk top review that includes: a) Best practices in waste management in regional and remote settings in Australia and in other countries b) Current legislation, frameworks, policies etc at a Commonwealth, Territory, and regional level.

The second stage is collecting information from the five communities within WARC which have landfills and documenting their waste management practices.

The primary purpose of this study is to assist WARC to improve and develop targeted waste management strategies.

As the first study of this kind to focus on very remote areas of the Northern Territory, this project will provide insights into the current policy environment and practices for waste management and the barriers and challenges associated with managing waste. It will provide an evidence base that can be shared with other regional councils when planning their strategic waste options.

The study also aims to identify potential options for managing community waste flows in ways that support the circular economy. The final report will include a detailed analysis of each landfill site, priority areas for improvement and recommendations to the Council for future waste options and is due to be published in June 2022.


Deepika Mathur

Project funding


2020 projects

Investing in Aboriginal Languages
Frowning child

This project will develop a new evidence-based model of Aboriginal language programs, explaining how they work and informing local and national decision-making about how to invest in Aboriginal languages.

Working from the ground up in collaboration with Aboriginal researchers, we will seek to identify and explain the mechanisms of language revitalisation, respecting diverse understandings about the nature and purpose of ‘language’ and ‘vitality’.

We will consider why a program that is effective in one setting is ineffective in another. We will construct a comprehensive framework for evaluating language programs, for use by communities and by funders.

The project will be situated in communities across the Northern Territory and Western Australia, places where there are unbroken lines of transmission down to the present generation.

We will operate through established language centres because they provide local Aboriginal governance, host many programs, are sites of government investment, and provide safe places for the project team to work together. We will relate to the peak national bodies that offer funding and professional development to language centres.


  • Evaluation: How can we measure the success of language programs?
  • Innovation: What strength-based innovation could support language vitality here?
  • Sustainability: How can we establish long-term sustainable language programs here?


Steven Bird | Michael Christie | Michaela Spencer

Project funding


Realist Research and Evaluation in Relation to Innovation Platforms (IPs) in Agricultural Research for Development
Sacks of rice and lentils

‘Agricultural Innovation Platforms’ (AIPs) are multi-stakeholder groups that develop, trial and adapt social or technical innovations to improve agricultural productivity and livelihoods in low-income countries. They have been supported by several funders including The Australian Centre for International Agricultural Research (ACIAR).

This project conducted a realist literature review across AIPs to date (regardless of the funder), and a realist evaluation of three ACIAR-funded programs, to improve understanding of the processes of innovation, the effectiveness of AIPs, how benefits can be scaled out and sustained, and how monitoring and evaluation can be improved.


Inform future funding of AIPs by enabling ACIAR to better understand:

  • how and why different models were successful in different contexts and why;
  • whether processes of innovation differ in different models;
  • whether in what circumstances and how benefits are scaled out;
  • whether in what circumstances and how benefits are sustained;
  • how monitoring and evaluation of innovation platforms may be improved.


Shelley Worthington | Gill Westhorp | Kim Grey | Emma Williams

Project funding


Understanding Pathways to Support Yolŋu Children and Families to Achieve Strong Learning in Two Systems
Yolŋu child with face paint

Dharaŋanamirr dhukarr guŋgayunaraw djamarrkuḻiw ga gurruṯumirriw marŋgikunharaw ḏälkunharaw gakalwun dhiyakun märrmaw’nha romgun / Understanding pathways to support Yolŋu children and families to achieve strong learning in two systems

This project, funded through an Australian Institute of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Studies (AIATSIS) Research Exchange Grant, is a collaboration between CDU, Yalu Indigenous Corporation, Shepherdson College, Connected Beginnings, Families as First Teachers, and Galiwin’ku Childcare.

The Ŋuthanmaram djamarrkuḻiny’ märrma’kurr romgurr - Growing up children in two worlds project ( demonstrated that Yolŋu children have strong knowledge and skills from their own cultural domain that may not be recognised within the very different cultural context of school.

A high priority for Yolŋu families is recognition of, and respect for, cultural strengths to ensure children stay strong in the Yolŋu system as they move into early childhood programs and school. Yolŋu also wants a greater understanding of Balanda (non-Indigenous) systems of education.


This project engages cultural experts, elders, families, children, educators and researchers in a participatory action approach to explore:

  • How can recognition of and respect for Yolŋu education systems (processes, skills and knowledge) be strengthened?
  • What can help Yolŋu to understand more about Balanda education systems?
  • What ideas are feasible for trial and evaluation and how can they be embedded and sustained?


Anne Lowell | Elaine Maypilama | Rosemary Gundjarranbuy | Emily Armstrong

Project funding


Aboriginal Economic Development Strategy: Options and Pathways
View of town and hills, framed by trees

The Federal Government's Department of Infrastructure, Transport, Regional Development and Communications identified the need to design an Aboriginal Economic Development Strategy: Options and Pathways to ensure that Aboriginal people are best placed to benefit from the development of energy and resource projects in the Beetaloo gas sub-basin corridor (between Katherine and Tennant Creek).

An Aboriginal Economic Development Strategy will inform Government and community investments in the following areas:

  • Work-readiness programs that are aligned with jobs required by emerging energy and resource sector projects and support Aboriginal employment opportunities;
  • Catalytic investment that will provide opportunities for Aboriginal businesses to mobilise and prepare for business opportunities; and
  • Aboriginal regional governance arrangements for driving economic and social development, according to identified local priorities.

The project will include high-level consultation with key stakeholders, including but not limited to: Government departments and agencies; Land Councils; Regional economic development committee representatives; local government and industry groups with the Strategy outlining the best practice 'pathways' for maximising Indigenous education and employment; strengthening Indigenous businesses; and realising benefits from energy and resource development.


Pascal Tremblay | Alicia Boyle | Jane Marianne Munday | Andrew Taylor | Michaela Spencer Shelley Worthington | Rajee Henderson | Linda Payi Ford | Pawinee Yuhun

Project funding


Barkly Region Jobs Profile and Workforce Plan
Round boulders and skyline at dusk

The Barkly Regional Deal is a 10-year commitment between the Australian Government, the Northern Territory Government and the Barkly Regional Council. This project developed a Barkly Region Jobs Profile and a Barkly Region Workforce Plan to increase the capacity of the workforce in the Barkly region.


Develop Barkly Region Jobs Profile:

  • Collate Barkly Survey data and census, employment, CDP and others.
  • Aggregate information up with 3 Remote Town Data from 2017 Ali Curung, Elliot and Utopia.
  • Produce public Regional Jobs Profile.

Develop Barkly Region Workforce Plan:

  • Utilise all supply information from profiles and cross-reference local regional information – including the Five Mines report, Regional Migration and others.
  • Identify regional opportunities, strengths and gaps in skills and occupations.
  • Prioritise training investment for the region.
  • Incorporate supply, demand and significant projects.


Pascal Tremblay | Alicia Boyle | Andrew Taylor | Pawinee Yuhun | Fiona Shalley

Project funding


Evaluation Services to National Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Corporation - Transport and Community Services (NATSIC)
Children playing ball

NATSIC appointed Northern Institute as an evaluation partner to support their pilot project Doin’ Business Our Way. NATSIC secured a grant through the Information, Linkages and Capacity Building National Information Program Investment Strategy (over three years) to design and implement Disability Information Kiosks.

The Kiosks are to be rolled out in Aboriginal Community Controlled Health Services (ACCHS) and linked to the National Disability Information Sharing Platform (NDISP).

Disability Information Kiosks are designed to provide consistent, participant-centric, appropriate, culturally and linguistically appropriate, and accessible information available nationally through an upscaled, Web Content Accessilibity Guideline (WCAG) compliant, online presence. Thus improving accessibility to the NDISP for Aboriginal people with disability, their families and carers (APWD+) in a culturally safe environment.

These Disability Information Kiosks can also be replicated nationally across all communities, based on the evidence the program gains around how to engage local communities to design the products and build their capacity to engage with the platform.


Alicia Boyle | Shelley Worthington | Devaki Monani | Kellie Pollard

Project funding


Teaching and Learning Resources For Endangered Yolŋu Languages
Wicker pattern

Yolŋu language authorities recognise over 20 Yolŋu languages, the majority of which are seldom spoken and in danger of dying out. This project will develop resources for an open-source, extensible mobile-friendly web app for teaching and learning some of these languages and the capacity to include more.

This project will engage Yolŋu researchers in negotiation with their clan elders to prepare learning materials, including texts and audio recordings of several hundred words and sentences configured into paradigms, searchable examples, and tests, which can be imported into an online resource.

Because Yolŋu languages share many sounds, spelling and grammatical structures but differ greatly in their vocabulary, a carefully-designed app will allow many languages to be included, with correlating reference books produced for each language.


Michael Christie | Cathy Bow | Yasunori Hayashi | Gawura Waṉambi | Joy Bulkanhawuy

Project funding


Investigating Gambling Behaviours in Non-English Speaking Populations in the NT: a Scoping Study

This project generates evidence and makes recommendations to the Northern Territory Government (NTG) about the gambling behaviours of the non-English speaking background (NESB) populations (excluding Indigenous) in the Northern Territory (NT).

Despite substantial increases in NESB populations, there is a persistent lack of knowledge about their gambling behaviours, this first systematic investigation will contribute to an advanced understanding of the gambling behaviours and problem gambling risk in the diverse Territory society.

This pioneering study will be conducted by Northern Institute and the Menzies School of Health Research in 2019-2020 on behalf of the Northern Territory Government Community Benefit Fund (CBF). It will determine which NESB groups in the NT may be at higher risk of problem gambling and consequential gambling-related harms.

The research design will be participatory informed, to buffer against the potential for stigma and shame affecting the wellbeing of communities.

First, an environmental scan of cultural associations and societies, immigrant support organisations, and counselling services will be carried out. Contact will be made with key personnel in these organisations, and a series of exploratory questions around gambling behaviours and harms in each NESB population group will be asked.

Once analysed, NESB groups will be recontacted and invited to participate in further research identifying how Government and Non Government Organisation (NGO) services can better support them to access gambling help services, and how to ensure the services are culturally appropriate.

Upon completion of the project, a final report with findings and recommendations will be submitted to the CBF, while plain language summaries will be developed and presented to each stakeholder group.


Kate Golebiowska | Himanshu Gupta | Matthew Stevens | Jodie Ellis

Project funding


2019 projects

NT Department of Treasury and Finance Demographic Research Grant 2019-2024
People riding escalator

The NT Department of Treasury and Finance provides long-term foundational support for independent demographic research conducted by the Demography and Growth Planning Research team at Northern Institute.

This maintains a core of demographic and population expertise in the Territory that can be applied to analysis, representation and capacity building concerning Territory population issues.

During the second year (of the five-year) grant, notable achievements included:

  • Participation of two national population advisory groups to represent Territory population issues to the Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) and the national Centre for Population;
  • Participation on a national Ministerial Committee for international migration;
  • Publication of relevant articles in higher ranking international demographic journals;
  • Participation in a range of working groups, forums and workshops to enhance the success of the 2021 Census in the Territory;
  • Delivering introductory graduate training on relevant demographic issues to NTG graduate officers.

The Demography and Growth Planning Research team also support the Northern Territory Government’s population projections and targeted research projects for a better understanding of trends in population growth and migration, including the correlates of population retention and attraction and the Northern Territory’s contemporary First Nations demography.


Andrew Taylor | Demography and Growth Planning Research Team

Project funding


CSIRO-CDU Collaboration on Responsible Artificial Intelligence (R-AI) and Innovation
Man with cap watching drone

AI-driven technologies and digital platforms are increasingly being promoted for use by Indigenous and rural communities in Australia to solve complex environmental management problems, care for animal species and habitats, and coordinate disaster response and recovery requests.

Drawing on R-AI action-based projects in Kakadu and bushfire-affected areas, this project will examine issues around cross-cultural data management, governance, sharing and use; and local community assessments of the benefits, risks, and uncertainties associated with digital innovation and AI applications to consider mechanisms through which remote and regional people trust and use AI and digital platforms.

Insights will be used to inform the development of a CSIRO (Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation) & CDU micro-credential R-AI courses. This research ensures that remote and regional people, including First Nations people, benefit from digital technologies and platforms, and their knowledge practices are enabled through the co-design, co- application, and co-evaluation of these technologies.

This project will include activities to engage CSIRO-CDU post-doctoral fellow, Dr Jennifer Macdonald:

  • Interviewing Indigenous elders involved in this project about end-user design and development of AI-driven technologies for managing biocultural landscapes;
  • Observing & interviewing members of the CSIRO-JCU-CDU-Microsoft-Traditional Owner ‘Connect to Care for Country’ team;
  • Interviewing members of targeted disaster-affected communities and corporate investors offering recovery aid to investigate trust and motivational issues with AI platform engagement and use for disaster recovery;
  • Co-developing a CSIRO-CDU micro-credential course.


Ruth Wallace | Justine Lacey | Jennifer Macdonald

Project funding


CDU-AIMS Social Science Postdoctoral Fellowship
Clouds at sunset over the open sea

A CDU-Australian Institute of Marine Science (AIMS) Post-Doctoral Fellow/Researcher, Dr Rachel Groom, is responsible for a critical component of social science research associated with the aspirations of Indigenous communities in the Northern Territory for their sea country and participation in marine science partnerships with AIMS.

Working with CDU, AIMS and Aboriginal communities to negotiate a project to explore the following principles relating to marine estate research, monitoring and management:

  • Acknowledging social, cultural, economic and environmental values underpinning participation in the Northern Territory's marine research and marine estate management;
  • Engaging First Nations marine estate owners, scientists and government agencies in codesigned planning, identification of resources, development of capacity and realizing benefits;
  • Involving Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal peoples' knowledge and interests in all stages of marine research and estate management and decision making;
  • Creating processes to undertake participatory and communication strategies that support continuity of commitment, trust‐building, innovation and the optimal management of resources.

Project activities and outputs will include Indigenous-driven sea country research, planning and management processes, and inform practice development in partner agencies such as AIMS.

Through this work, the researcher will support Indigenous rangers and Traditional Owners and research agencies such as AIMS to articulate, strategically plan, and undertake best practice co-designed research and management of sea country through culturally and scientifically robust research methodologies and management.


Ruth Wallace | Rachel Groom

Project funding


Local Decision Making Monitoring and Evaluation Framework
Woman looking at computer

This project aims to develop an adaptive Monitoring and Evaluation Framework for assessing and iteratively improving community and service delivery outcomes from Local Decision Making (LDM) agreements and community plans.

The monitoring aspect of the project concerns the development of ongoing processes for reviewing standard elements of LDM operation, both within government and within communities, this includes developing techniques for iterative assessment and review of:

  • Processes for achieving LDM agreements and community plans
  • Assessments of community readiness and designations along the community control scale
  • Transitions to new arrangements for service delivery and management
  • Practices of engagement and community uptake, and understanding of LDM processes

The evaluation element of the project concerns the development of processes for regular review of LDM activities concerning identified priority outcomes and includes methods for identifying and reviewing:

  • Networks of involved (and bystander) groups and organisations
  • Locally identified indicators of community control and community development outcomes
  • Interfaces of traditional governance practices and service delivery areas
  • Barriers to achieving agreed priorities and practices

A Ground-Up approach will be mobilised to develop a framework template that will be enacted and tested in 1-2 communities and may be negotiated and adapted for use in other communities involved in LDM work across the Northern Territory.


Michaela Spencer | Ruth Wallace

Project funding


Growing an Aboriginal Workforce for the Creative Industries in Central Australia
Paint brush and palette

This project aims to grow the Aboriginal workforce in Central Australia by developing creative industries career pathways and creative skill sets training, which may be transferable to other sectors, locations, or industries.


  • Five new and five existing Aboriginal employees will be given training complementary to their employment in Alice Springs and Yulara/Mutitjulu that will reflect employer and employee requirements and objectives of the business.
  • Document pathways for creative industries in Central Australia.
  • Two case studies will be developed focussing on the implementation of creative skill set training for Aboriginal employees. One case study will look at a creative industry businesses-type scenario, and the other will look at a scene where the primary business is not a creative industry type but in which the skills of creatives are essential.
  • A third case study will focus on networking with creative activities in Alice Springs. This study will seek to promote a better understanding of the transferable nature of creative industry skills among remote, mobile and agile Aboriginal workforces, and provide evidence that will assist in understanding how and in what ways industries can utilise creatives to develop business; and how creative industry skills can be transferred across sectors.


Judith Lovell | Shelley Worthington

Project funding


ARC Special Research Initiatives - National Indigenous Research and Knowledges Network (NIRAKN)

The National Indigenous Research and Knowledges Network (NIRAKN) was established in 2012 under the Special Research Initiative (SRI) for the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Researchers’ Network (ATSIRN). Northern Institute researcher, Professor Linda Payi Ford, is the designated NIRAKN State Hub leader for South Australia and Northern Territory (2019-2022).

The principal aim of NIRAKN State Hubs is to harness the power of diverse Indigenous Knowledges to build a strong, sustainable cohort of linked qualified Indigenous researchers across disciplines and fields into the fabric of Australian Research.


  • Delivering a quality program of capacity building initiatives to support aspiring, postgraduate, and early to mid-career Indigenous researchers to form a skilled qualified research community.
  • Facilitating a regenerative undergraduate to postgraduate pipeline of new researchers, across institutions, the nation, and fields of critical research importance.
  • Connecting Indigenous researchers across disciplines, nationally and internationally to develop a culturally supportive, inclusive research environment which enables the cross fertilisation of ideas and a platform for new Indigenous multi-disciplinary research.
  • Developing an on-going integrated research program.
  • Achieving national and international recognition as a leading network of Australian Indigenous research expertise, knowledge and innovation.
  • Initiating the Indigenous research agenda by applying Indigenous knowledges and expertise to multi-disciplinary collaborative projects of pressing research need to inform community and government policy and program delivery.
  • Administration of the State Hub and the State based activities including entering into collaborative research agreements with other State universities for the delivery of the State Hub research project and the capacity building [program].


Linda Ford | Barry Judd | Tracy Woodroffe | Gotha (Kathy) Guthadjaka AM

Project funding


Female Participation in STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering & Mathematics)
NI staff member posing with laptop

To strengthen the focus on STEM (science, technology, engineering, and mathematics) in Northern Territory's children and youth, Charles Darwin University (CDU) will provide a program of STEM activities specifically aimed at female youths (25 years and under).

The project identified several projects/ activities that would benefit from this incentive's support. Funding will also be used to promote CDU's STEM activities to target groups via social media and workshops or community engagement events hosted by CDU:

  • Women in Science – A Dual Academy Project
  • Engineering Education and Professional Learning and Teaching Pathways for Indigenous Women
  • Kakadu Plum Project
  • Joint STEM activity with Inspiring Australia
  • Joint STEM activities with Children's University


To provide current and future female CDU students with:

  • Experience and participation in tailored, appropriate, practical STEM activities to inspire interest in STEM and
  • Pathways for females to study STEM at CDU.


Ruth Wallace | Pawinee Yuhun

Project funding


Ways Forward to a Zero Waste Building
Woman in front of large general waste bin

This project aims to design and construct a zero-waste building as a demonstration model with industry partners and document how waste reduction strategies have been considered at each stage.

Construction waste currently generates over 30% of the total waste going to landfills (Department of Energy and Environment, 2018). Generation of waste starts with decisions made at the initial stage of a building design and continues through to the construction phase.

As a construction project involves several stakeholders during its life, the process of decision-making and connecting this to waste generation at each stage needs to be documented. It also needs to be supported with information regarding avoiding waste generation.

As waste reduction is considered the best option in the hierarchy of waste management, this project aims to achieve zero waste through a demonstration project.

This will be realized by a team (architect, builder, a researcher & a Master of Research student) working together on one building that the builder and architect have been contracted to design and build.


  • To design and construct a zero-waste demonstration building.
  • Document how waste reduction considerations have been considered at each stage.
  • Demonstrate how much waste can be saved through this process.


Deepika Mathur | Mark Fudge

Project funding


2018 projects

Provision of Family Violence Prevention Legal Services (FVPLS) Evaluation
Paper cutout of man menacing paper cutout of child; wine bottle in background

This project was the first impact evaluation of Family Violence Prevention Legal Services (FVPLS), funded by the Commonwealth Government of Australia through the Safety and Wellbeing Program of the Indigenous Advancement Strategy (IAS), Department of Prime Minister and Cabinet.

There are 14 FVPLS providers across Australia in all States and Territories except Tasmania and the ACT. FVPLSs are funded to provide culturally safe legal assistance and support, including casework, counselling and court support. FVPLSs also offer referrals, community legal education and early intervention and prevention services.

The program aims to improve safety for victims/survivors of family violence, provide them with better access to justice, and change attitudes and behaviours concerning family violence. Some provide services through multiple sites. Individual sites tailor their programs to the needs of the communities they serve.

This evaluation required an examination of the impact of the Family Violence Prevention Legal Services (FVPLS) program against its objectives. The objective of the evaluation is to help build the evidence base around effective interventions to support victims of family violence and reduce family violence against Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people.

The final evaluation report will provide recommendations to be addressed by the Department of Prime Minister and Cabinet (PM&C) as the funding Department for the program, FVPLSs themselves, and the national FVPLS Forum.


Gill Westhorp | Emma Williams | Ruth Wallace | Judith Lovell | Shelley Worthington

Project funding


Learning English and Aboriginal Languages for Work
Conversation between Aboriginal man and white man

This project aims to leverage mobile technologies to expand and enrich the communication between Indigenous and non-Indigenous Australians working together on Aboriginal-owned or controlled country. The project expects to generate new knowledge in the areas of oral language learning and on-country technology design, through extensive collaboration with Indigenous participants in Arnhem Land.

Expected project outcomes include mobile technologies that support learning of spoken English and Aboriginal languages and new ways for Indigenous and non-Indigenous Australians to come together to design digital technologies and to learn each other's languages.

In remote communities across Australia, Indigenous and non-Indigenous people come together to work at the intersection of Western and Aboriginal knowledge systems. This work is called 'Caring for Country' and includes managing the land and conserving cultural resources.

In places where the ancestral language is still spoken, work is often conducted in a simplified form of English with Aboriginal language words thrown in. Misunderstanding is rife.

The aim of this project is to leverage mobile technologies to open new communication channels between Indigenous and non-Indigenous Australians working together on country. This project involves technology design for spoken language and takes place on country in Arnhem Land.


  • Technology for learning spoken English and Aboriginal languages.
  • Two-way construction of oral language learning materials.
  • Design and evaluation in Kakadu and West Arnhem.


Steven Bird

Project funding


Northern Territory Population Strategy Demographic Research Grant
Family holding hands, silhouetted against the setting sun

The aim of this grant is to examine thoroughly the demographic and other relevant characteristics of selected priority population cohorts. The findings are expected to guide the Northern Territory Government’s future population initiatives.

This research will focus on identifying the perceptions, expectations, experiences, attitudes and other identifiable drivers that influence the selected population groups when they make decisions to move to or move away from the Territory, and/or chose to remain as long-term Territorians.

Projects within the grant will involve research activities capable of providing robust data, information and knowledge capable of being applied by the NT Government in the development of targeted population initiatives. Research activities are expected to include population surveys and focus group discussions with agreed segments of the population, structured in a way to provide applied and policy-relevant insights.

The research will target the aspirations and attitudes of defined segments of the existing and former residents of the Northern Territory, through:

  • Surveys and focus group discussions with key population segments (identified above);
  • Identification of the drivers of population change in the capital city, major towns and regions of the Northern Territory;
  • Cross-regional analysis and comparison of results between Darwin, major regional towns and regions within the NT;
  • Cross-jurisdictional analysis and comparison of research results;
  • Analysis and comparison of results for the identified population segments above;
  • Identification of the key characteristics of population segments that tend to stay for the long term and key reasons; and
  • Coherent conclusions of research results.


Andrew Taylor

Project funding


Caring for Mum on Country
Group of people waving at camera

Using a strengths-based approach the ‘Caring for Mum on Country’ project will deliver a scoping study and pilot an educational initiative to increase the capacity of First Nations women in community settings to provide care for women during pregnancy, labour and postpartum; and increase community reproductive health literacy. The project aims to build the capacity of remote Aboriginal communities to effectively partner with health services in the design of community-based maternity care.


  • Developing a community-based cohort of skilled pregnancy and childbirth companions who can provide sociocultural and emotional support to Indigenous women and their families. This will include the identification and delivery of suitable accredited and non-accredited training for this cohort. This objective includes strengthening community support systems and reinvigorating sociocultural care practices that promote the reproductive health rights of Aboriginal women. It will explore the integration of Aboriginal, medical, and midwifery reproductive knowledges and birthing practices.
  • Increasing individual and population reproductive health literacy. Working in collaboration with the participants and community, the ‘Caring for Mum on Country’ project will identify community gaps in knowledge and access to reproductive health information. Using the results from this process, a range of community initiatives will be implemented to increase population reproductive health literacy.
  • Empowering Aboriginal communities to participate and negotiate the shaping of reproductive health care that is healthy and culturally appropriate. This includes documenting local changes in childbirth care models and discussing the community’s current aspirations for the redesign of maternity care. It will build the capacity of Aboriginal communities to participate in local decision making around reproductive health care.


Ruth Wallace | Sarah Ireland

Project funding


Women in STEM - Catalysing Women's Science Collaboration Program
Darwin Innovation Hub staff

This project will develop and launch a Catalysing women's science collaboration program in Northern Australia that adapts the Lean LaunchPad business development process to enable competitive women scientists in Northern Australia to find, engage and develop new teams with other institutions, test the business case for the collaborative team's research, with a particular focus on real-world applications. This process will inform the development of a business prospectus at this end of this project to establish a catalysing women's science collaboration program to attract university, CSIRO and business sector buy-in across Australia.


  • Increase awareness and participation of girls and women in STEM and entrepreneurship education and careers, including in schools through to university and to the research sector.
  • Increase participation of girls and women in other parts of the innovation ecosystem including innovative businesses, start-ups and entrepreneurial activities and careers.
  • Stimulate an increase in the number of women in senior leadership and decision-making positions in government, research organisations, industry and businesses.


Cathy Robinson | Isabelle Skinner | Ruth Wallace

Project funding


Enhancing Organizational Cultural Competence to Support Effective Communication Between Aboriginal People and Health Staff in the Central Australian Health Service
Man and woman looking at infant

Effective health communication is fundamental to ensuring quality health care. However, communication is challenging when staff and patients do not share the same language and/or cultural background.

This research aims to identify and embed organisational mechanisms and support needed to facilitate sustained improvements in communication between health staff and First Nations patients and their families. This has the potential to improve the experience of health care for Aboriginal people, reduce the consequences of ineffective communication, such as discharge against medical advice, and subsequently improve health outcomes.


  • Develop appropriate organisational and patient experience assessment tools focusing on intercultural communication, drawing on existing indicators and measures of cultural competence/cultural security.
  • Use these tools, supplemented by empirical qualitative data, to identify strengths and gaps at organizational, system and individual levels from the perspectives of both staff and patients.
  • Trial and evaluate targeted interventions focused on enhancing intercultural communication (including evaluation of existing strategies).
  • Use this evidence to promote organisational cultural competence, integrating mechanisms and support required for sustained improvement in intercultural communication into policy and practice.


Anne Lowell | Robyn Aitken | Anna Ralph | Kerry A. Taylor| Alan Cass | Judith Lovell

Project funding


Remote Engagement Coordination Indigenous Evaluation Research (REC-IER) Project - Phase 2
Group walking towards Marthakal Yolngu Air building

This project will be developed through research in three First Nations community locations including Galiwin'ku, Ngukurr and Ntaria (Northern Territory).

This round of work will draw on the previous REC-I ER project (Phase 1). Under a structured plan and collaborative and iterative process, the work will focus on:

  • how government staff and people in community can work together well;
  • how engagement and coordination can be continuously improved; and
  • how the identification of good local engagement practices may be further developed.


  • Design engagement and coordination plans for specific activities in the Project Locations;
  • Review the implementation of these engagement plans and make recommendations to improve engagement performance;
  • Develop the use of video and other digital technologies for reviewing engagement practices and events;
  • Develop localised research and evaluation capacity in the Project Locations;
  • Map out alternative approaches to engagement evaluation that can be used in communities where there is limited local research/ evaluation capacity; and
  • Make visible these research and service delivery processes through a website.


Michaela Spencer | Michael Christie

Project funding


Mobile Software for Oral Language Learning in Arnhem Land
Trees in front of rock formation

This project will design and develop innovative mobile technologies to enable more effective collaboration between Indigenous and non-Indigenous Australians working together on country. Digital technologies will assist two-way language learning, initially for the endangered Kundedjnjenghmi language of West Arnhem, and ultimately for any Australian Aboriginal language.

In remote communities across Australia, Indigenous and non-Indigenous people come together to work at the intersection of Western and Aboriginal knowledge systems. This work is called ‘Caring for Country’ and includes managing the land and conserving cultural resources.

In places where the ancestral language is still spoken, work is often conducted in a simplified form of English with Aboriginal language words thrown in. Misunderstanding is rife.

The aim of this project is to develop new mobile technologies to dramatically increase the interactional competence of Indigenous and non-Indigenous Australians working together on country.

This project will take place on country in the Aboriginal communities of Kabulwarnamyo and Manmoyi, where the endangered Kundedjnjenghmi language (a dialect of Bininj Kunwok) is still spoken. However, the work will be applicable in any Aboriginal community where speakers of Aboriginal languages work with speakers of English to carry out tasks that depend on effective face-to-face interaction.

The project will be delivered as a series of one-week workshops, interspersed with technical development activities.


Steven Bird

Project funding


2017 projects

Knowledge Network on Mining Encounters and Indigenous Sustainable Livelihoods: Cross Perspectives of the Circumpolar North and Melanesia/Australia
Missing media item.

In the sparsely populated northern areas of Australia, Sweden, and Canada, the physical distance between Indigenous communities, governments and companies make it challenging to adapt mining project agreements as the characteristics and interests of each actor change over time. This project will look at the experiences of a variety of northern communities who have been involved in the full life cycle of mining projects.

Researchers are interested in how relationships between actors change as projects proceed, and what mechanisms are available to communities to ensure that their needs and interests continue to be taken into account. There is a particular focus on communities that have experienced the end of a mining project, or who have been subject to the coming and going of projects over time.

The project design reflects the diversity of ‘Indigenous communities’ and of mining projects, involving large and small communities, relatively homogenous and quite diverse communities, and large and small mining projects.

The role of the provincial government in negotiating is of particular concern because they have dual interests of economic development and community advocacy, and are usually physically distant from the community, the mining company, the national government, and other stakeholders. Australia, Sweden and Canada have different forms of provincial government and different organisations and structures for Indigenous communities.

The project aim is to find out whether there are ‘key lessons' in how to manage relationships over the mining life cycle that can be shared despite these differences.


Andrew Taylor | Dean Carson | Ruth Wallace | Doris Carson | Sharon Harwood | Lea Jean Govan

Project funding


Evaluation: Our Land Our Jobs Program
Purple and white flowers

The Indigenous Land Council (ILC) runs, through its subsidiary organisations, a variety of training programs that are designed to provide different opportunities to people at various stages of career development. These include foundational programs to prepare people for the workforce, early-career employment opportunities that have a training component and may consist of qualifications, career development programs for those employed in subsidiary organisations, and advanced leadership training to assist people in transitioning into senior leadership positions.

Previous evaluations of these training programs have focused on outputs or very short-term outcomes. This evaluation framework will be designed to enable a consistent approach to the evaluation of ILC’s vocational training programs. It will provide a framework for comprehensive evaluation of the value of different programs for different people as well as information to improve the programs to ensure the supports provided can be tailored or modified to meet the needs of different people.

Methods used to develop the framework:

  • A one-day workshop with representatives from the ILC, Australian Indigenous Agribusiness (AIA), Voyages and the National Centre for Indigenous Excellence (NCIE);
  • A brief literature review to identify indicators and instruments appropriate for use in the evaluation of training programs;
  • A set of interviews with key informants in AIA and Voyages;
  • Development of a draft program theory diagram and draft Context-Mechanism-Outcome statements to underpin the evaluation design;
  • Provision of a progress report to ILC staff incorporating the draft program theory tools to obtain feedback on those materials;
  • Drafting of the evaluation framework itself; and
  • A second one-day workshop to validate the materials arising from the project.


Gill Westhorp | Shelley Worthington

Project funding


Realist Evaluation: Aboriginal Families as First Educators
Aboriginal woman reading to children

Aboriginal Families as First Educators (AFaFE) program is run by Catholic Education Western Australia (CEWA). Aboriginal playgroups, located within selected schools and complemented by a home visiting component, support parents/carers of children aged 0-4 to act as their children’s ‘first educators’ and therefore improve their school readiness as well as parental/carer engagement in their learning.

The program uses techniques that focus on language priority, learning games, conversational reading, and enriched caregiving. Relationships between schools and local Aboriginal families and communities were to be strengthened through the initiative. Increased Aboriginal student enrolment, attendance and achievement in CEWA schools were the desired outcomes.

In accordance with the Australian Government’s Indigenous Advancement Strategy Evaluation Framework (2018), the evaluation team's objective is to produce a ‘relevant, robust, appropriate and credible’ product (Commonwealth 2018: 3), working closely with stakeholders, valuing Aboriginal knowledge, and including a number of participatory and capacity-building elements for participants.


The project aim is to provide a realist evaluation of the AFaFE program focusing on the key evaluation questions:

  • What are the early outcomes from the program for schools, service providers and families?
  • How, why, and in what respects do those outcomes vary across sites and population groups?
  • This included whom AFaFE is not working for, in which contexts, and why. In what ways, how and by whom has the program been adapted, with what impacts on program implementation and short-term outcomes?
  • What steps could be taken to improve AFaFE?


Emma Williams | Gill Westhorp | Judith Lovell | Shelley Worthington

Project funding


Evaluation: Integrated Support Program (ISP) For Tangentyere Council
View of town in bright sun

Researchers from the Northern Institute were engaged by Tangentyere Council to undertake an evaluation of their Individual Support Program (ISP). The ISP focuses on case support for people referred to the program with alcohol-related problems, and an integrated approach to harm minimisation within Alice Springs and nearby communities.

The evaluation involved collaborative work with ISP program staff, and Indigenous researchers from the Tangentyere research hub, and aimed to develop appropriate forms of evidence-based evaluative practise to support the ongoing improvement and reporting of the program.

Project Method:

  • The evaluation was planned and structured as a collaborative and iterative process. It focuses on continuous improvement in both practice and outcomes from the ISP, and the processes for monitoring and evaluating Tangentyere programs.
  • The focus on continuous improvement formed the basis of articulating a Tangentyere approach to Evidence Based Policy and Practice (EBPP).
  • The evaluation focused on both the effectiveness of the program itself as well as its processes.
  • The collaborative evaluation process focused on meetings with program stakeholders, and program participants, both individually and as a whole group.
  • Data and reports from each meeting were provided to all participants and encouraged feedback and input from participants about the process, and ideas for how the program could be improved.


Michaela Spencer | Matthew Campbell | Michael Christie | Helen Verran

Project funding


Katherine Youth Justice Reinvestment Research Project
Woman kissing child on forehead

The Katherine Youth Justice Reinvestment Group (KYJRG) was established in 2016. It aimed to progress a community vision to transform youth justice services and systems in Katherine to focus on prevention and early intervention with the intent of reducing incarceration.

This research project is intended to provide preliminary information to invest in a more comprehensive four-stage youth JR process in Katherine. More specifically, to provide baseline information to assist with stages 1 and 2 of the JR process, including:

  • Collection and analysis of multiple local quantitative and qualitative data sources (including publicly available data and de-identified administrative data held by relevant government agencies); and
  • Adoption of a collaborative community development approach, in partnership with local partners and stakeholders, to develop a business development strategy (including identification of funding sources and support with funding applications) aimed at sustaining the youth JR approach over subsequent years.

The project final report will include five compendium reports relating to:

  • Social media depictions of youth in Katherine;
  • Social issues data, relating to general demographic information, early childhood, family life, housing, income and employment, education, health, and other data;
  • Police data (not for public release);
  • Corrections data (not for public release); and
  • Child protection data (not for public release).


Ruth Wallace | James Smith | Kellie Pollard | Sarah Ireland

Project funding


Population and Demographic Data Services
Crowd of people

Secure Analytics for Population Health Research and Intelligence (SAPHaRI) maintains up-todate health, demographic population and geographic database as part of the Centre for Epidemiology and Evidence (CEE) in the NSW Ministry of Health. It provides population health data for epidemiological analysis and surveillance.

A vital part of the SAPHaRI suite is population data. It provides the denominator value for many health indicators and measures, such as those provided on the HealthStats NSW website. SAPHaRI population data is a mix of historic estimates and projections between 1972 and 2036.

In this project, Demography researchers were required to update the SAPHaRI population data.


  • Update the existing SAPHaRI population data based on the release of Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) Census 2016 population estimate data supplied by the Ministry of Health.
  • Provide an overall data structure for general use and management of the data, including versioning.
  • Publish a methodology to enable scrutiny - 'SAPHaRI Population Data Asset: Data and Methods Protocol.


Tom Wilson

Project funding


Modelling Future Solar Energy Production from Households and Businesses in the Greater Darwin Area
Rooftop solar panels

Although the uptake of rooftop solar panels on residential and commercial dwellings is rising in the Greater Darwin Area, the uptake is still amongst the lowest in Australia. This is despite highly favourable conditions both in terms of the daily sun hours and generous financial incentives such as the 1:1 Feed In tariff (FIT).

This project explored the barriers to adopting Photovoltaic (PV) in residential and commercial dwellings and policies that can increase the adoption. The project had three overarching aims.


  • Aim 1 (Year 1): Reviewing and assessing existing policies for residential solar energy production.
  • Aim 2 (Year 2): Assessing barriers to and motivations for the uptake of residential rooftop solar panels.
  • Aim 3 (Year 3): Modelling the uptake of residential rooftop solar panels through an agent-based model.


  • Review of existing policies in other Australian states and worldwide on supporting PV uptake.
  • Policy analysis of most cost-effective policies.
  • A summary of scenarios and potential policies needed for stage 2.
  • Data collected (households and businesses), cleaned and analysed.
  • Assessment of most important behaviour changes influencing PV uptake.
  • Assessment of policies (from phase 1) on their effectiveness in achieving an increase in solar PV uptake.
  • A dynamic model which can predict PV uptake under different scenarios.
  • Prediction of solar power production until 2030 and beyond.
  • A summary and final report of future PV uptake under the most realistic scenarios.


Kerstin Zander

Project funding


Internet and Telecommunications Services in Australia - an Evidence Based Approach
Telecommunications tower at dusk

This project analyses the data obtained through the B4BA (Broadband for the Bush Alliance) national survey (focusing on regional, rural and remote), investigating the availability, quality, reliability and affordability experiences by our network of member organisations and associated networks. The survey also examines how consumers use their telecommunications services.

In-depth case studies with volunteer consumers will provide a much richer data set of consumers’ stories in the use of telecommunications services. The results will provide B4BA, Australian Communications Consumer Action Network (ACCAN), Regional, Rural and Remote Communications Coalition (RRRCC), Indigenous Remote Communications Association (IRCA) and other interested parties with rigorously analysed data sets that can inform policy and strategy.

This research addresses specific research needs identified by B4BA’s Strategic Business Plan and Forum VI.

Project deliverables:

  • Summary report of survey data
  • Analysis report of survey data
  • Case study portfolio
  • A full report of analysis and recommendations
  • Academic paper


Marianne St Clair

Project funding


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