Building Indigenous Leadership in Research: Role of Universities | Centre for Veterinary Education

Building Indigenous Leadership in Research: Role of Universities

Rod Kennett

Indigenous Seminar Series

Duration: 48:51

Thursday, May 28, 2015

Topic/s: Education, indigenous, research, rangers

Building Indigenous Leadership in Research: what role can universities play

Historically, Australian research has progressed from relegating Indigenous Australians to the status of non-consenting subjects to acknowledging them as participants, even collaborators. Further scientific enlightenment, in which Indigenous people are recognised, indeed sought, as research leaders is welcome and inevitable and here. My personal observations, based on over 3 decades as a non-Indigenous biologist closely engaged with the practice, policy and research of Indigenous land and sea management, are that Indigenous Australians are increasingly asserting their presence in the research sector by requiring improved ethical standards that respect Indigenous rights, by creating consultation and policy documents that identify Indigenous priorities, and by establishing organisations that access research dollars and nurture Indigenous researchers. The renaissance of Indigenous intellectual authority reflects a growing recognition by Indigenous people that research, particularly that led by Indigenous people, provides a means of re-asserting control over country lost through colonisation, of reinstituting traditional custodial responsibilities, and of building livelihoods based on the use and enjoyment of natural resources. In this talk I’ll examine several examples of Indigenous-led research involving community-based rangers in remote (and highly photogenic places) in north Australia. I’ll explore what I think contributed to their success - or otherwise, and attempt to contribute to the debate within the University of Sydney about effective ways to support Indigenous leadership and engagement in science.


Rod Kennett, Senior Research Fellow, Centre for Land and Water Research, Australian Institute for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Studies; Adjunct Professor, Institute of Applied Ecology, University of Canberra; University Fellow, Charles Darwin University.

Rod Kennett is a Senior Research Fellow and leads the AIATSIS Centre for Land and Water Research. He holds a PhD (Uni Qld) and an Honours degree in biology (ANU), has published over 40 research papers and articles, been an ARC Research Fellow, and has led numerous research and natural resource management programs in universities, Indigenous, non-government and government organisations. He has worked in marine and terrestrial science and management in north Australia for over three decades where much his work has focussed on increasing Indigenous community participation in research and management. He regularly presents at national and international conferences including invited keynote presentations. In 2013 he was an Australian Fulbright Scholar studying Indigenous conservation-based livelihoods in Alaska. Previous key positions include Natural and Cultural Resource Manager for the World Heritage listed Kakadu National Park where he was responsible for research leadership and engaging Indigenous Traditional Owners in research and management activities. As Program Manager at the North Australian Indigenous Land and Sea Management Alliance (NAILSMA), Rod led the multi award-winning Saltwater Country Management Program (including the Saltwater People Network and I-Tracker) and represented Indigenous interests in a wide range of science related workshops and policy development processes. Wider recognition of his work is demonstrated by receipt of Landcare Awards and two national Banksia Foundation Environment Awards. Rod contributes to a wider conservation and development agenda through membership of bodies such as the Indigenous Reef Advisory Committee (Great Barrier Reef Marine Park), the Wunambal Gaambera Healthy Country Scientific Committee; the International Steering Committee for the Arafura Timor Sea Experts Forum, the IUCN Species Specialist Commission and the IUCN Commission on Environmental, Economic and Social Policy.