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Research Institute for the Environment & Livelihoods

Livelihoods and natural resources

Research group
fish in net on beach with fishers

Our focus

Our research aims to produce knowledge to enhance the livelihoods and wellbeing of Indigenous and local communities, while maintaining resource sustainability in Northern Australia and the Asia Pacific region, in particular, Indonesia and Timor Leste.

We undertake multidisciplinary impact-orientated research on the interactions between people, the environment and livelihoods.

 We work in many different natural resource contexts including fisheries, aquaculture, forests, mangroves, agriculture and artisanal mining.

Since the inception of RIEL in 2004 the group has established a strong track record in research the following areas:

  • Indigenous and local natural and cultural resource management 
  • livelihoods improvement and Indigenous enterprise development 
  • livelihoods, food security, and gender
  • capacity building for agricultural and environmental management.

Specialist expertise and tech 

We have a diverse range of expertise in areas such as applied anthropology, sociology, geography, resource management, environmental management, community and international development. This allows us to integrate data and knowledge across disciplines and perspectives to generate fresh insights into natural resource-based livelihoods. The group uses many different research methods including qualitative, quantitative and participatory tools.

We collaborate with a wide range of research, industry, government and community partners to offer:

  • domestic and international higher degree by research (master and PhD)
  • advice and knowledge in natural resource-based enterprise development, including fisheries, aquaculture, gender and community-based natural and cultural resource management.

Meet the team 

This group includes among other contributors, Associate Professor Natasha Stacey (leader,, Rohan Fisher,  Jenny House, Emily Gibson, Kimberley Hunnam, Gianna Bonis-Profumo, Benjamin Brown, Pia Harkness.

Adjunct/Alumni members; Dr Dirk Steenbergen, Dr Ria Fitriana, Dr Arturo Izurieta, Dr Hannah Ling, Dr Kamy Melvani and Dr Ronju Ahammad.

Why this research is important

Through our research partnerships we strive to make an impact through knowledge and capacity building that will benefit the environment and communities. We also want to develop confident, highly skilled and passionate scholars who can work cross culturally in multidisciplinary research to address real world problems in Australia and internationally.

Key achievements and impacts

  • Our multidisciplinary approach to resource management and livelihoods has attracted numerous international and national research grants and consultancies, postdoctoral researchers and domestic and international postgraduate scholars. 
  • We conduct our research via collaborative partnerships - locally at CDU and across the Northern Territory, and interstate, and internationally with Indigenous and local community, government and NGO partners. 
  • Our work contributed to the CDU ERA assessment which achieved scores of 5 in environmental science and management. 
  • Our projects are built on trust, awareness of different values and worldviews, and participatory engagement through ‘action research’ to ensure research is delivering end user benefits. 
  • Our research findings highlight the need for local level ownership of livelihood development and demonstrate that culture is an intimate component of any Indigenous enterprise. 
  • We generate tailored research outputs through peer-reviewed publications, Master and PhD theses, and knowledge transfer through undergraduate and postgraduate teaching and other communication activity (e.g. media, seminars, conferences). 

Key projects

  • This project led by A/Prof Natasha Stacey reviewed the Aboriginal Coastal Licence (ACL)  regime in Maningrida with the Bawinanga Aboriginal Corporation and provided an evaluation of its benefits, vulnerabilities and recommendations.

    Research outputs are in preparation but a summary of ACL regime is provided in Jentoft et al 2019. We are also developing additional research with partners to support further development of Indigenous fisheries futures in the Northern Territory (2020).

  • Members of our group recently contributed to the Department of Foreign Affairs funded GFPD Program (1.2 million AUD over 4 years) with the ANU, Indonesian universities and government agencies to investigate environmental and social issues and build capacity associated with small scale artisanal mining for manganese and gold in eastern Indonesia (e.g. Fischer et al 2019). Dr Hannah Ling’s (PhD) 2019 considered local perspectives, values and belief associated with small-scale manganese mining in West Timor, Indonesia. 

  • We recently completed a co-led ACIAR funded project with Murdoch University, IPB and LIPI to identify the new approaches to coastal livelihood diversification in eastern Indonesia (Loneragan et al 2018; Stacey et al 2019).

    This synthesis of current knowledge and analysis of coastal livelihood programs will contribute towards improved applied, gender-balanced, action-driven research in Indonesia in the future. The final report can be found at:

    • Jenny House (PhD) Gender and Fisheries in Timor Leste
    • Emily Gibson (PhD) Gendered dimensions and vulnerability of coastal small-scale fishing livelihood strategies in Indonesia
    • Kimberley Hunnam (PhD) Ecological, social and food-security dimensions of Timor-Leste’s sardine fishery.
    • Gianna Boris-Profumo (PhD) Women’s empowerment in agriculture, animal source food production and child dietry diversity in rural Timor-Leste
    • Benjamin Brown (PhD) Rehabilitation capital in Indonesia: evaluating opportunity for mangrove reforestation in critically degraded landscapes
    • Pia Harkness (PhD) A study of livelihood resource use, dependence and impacts within the Savu Sea MPA, eastern Indonesia.
    • Ronju Ahammad (PhD) 2019.  Recent trends in forest and livelihood relationships of rural communities in the  Chittagong Hill Tracts region, Bangladesh
    • Hannah Ling (PhD) 2019. Approaches to small-scale manganese mining in West Timor, Indonesia: Perspectives, values, beliefs and sustainability.  
    • Kamy Melvani (PhD). 2019. Forest gardens and farmer livelihoods in the Intermediate zone of SriLanka. 
    • Frances Every (MSc). 2016 Livelihoods, Vulnerability and Marginalisation of a Bajo community in Wuring Laut, eastern Indonesia. 

Interested in livelihoods and natural resources?