A Typology of Indigenous Engagement in Australian Environmental Management: Implications for Knowledge Integration and Social-ecological System Sustainability

Rosemary Hill, Chrissy Grant, Melissa George, Catherine Robinson, Sue Jackson, Nick Abel

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Abstract

Indigenous peoples now engage with many decentralized approaches to environmental management that offer opportunities for integration of Indigenous Ecological Knowledge (IEK) and western science to promote cultural diversity in the management of social-ecological system sustainability. Nevertheless, processes of combining IEK with western science are diverse and affected by numerous factors, including the adaptive co-management context, the intrinsic characteristics of the natural resources, and the governance systems. We present a typology of Indigenous engagement in environmental management, derived through comparative analysis of 21 Australian case studies, and consider its implications for the integration of IEK with western science. Sociological and rational choice institutionalism underpin our analytical framework, which differentiates on three axes: (1) power sharing, incorporating decision making, rules definition, resource values and property rights; (2) participation, incorporating participatory processes, organizations engaged, and coordination approaches; (3) intercultural purpose, incorporating purposes of environmental management, Indigenous engagement, Indigenous development and capacity building. Our typology groups engagement into four types: Indigenous governed collaborations; Indigenous-driven co-governance; agency-driven co-governance; and agency governance. From our analysis of manifestations of knowledge integration across the types, we argue that Indigenous governance and Indigenous-driven co-governance provides better prospects for integration of IEK and western science for sustainability of social-ecological systems. Supporting Indigenous governance without, or with only a limited requirement for power sharing with other agencies sustains the distinct Indigenous cultural purposes underpinning IEK, and benefits knowledge integration. We conclude by advocating that the typology be applied to test its general effectiveness in guiding practitioners and researchers to develop robust governance for Indigenous knowledge integration in environmental management.
Original languageEnglish
Article number23
Pages (from-to)-
JournalEcology and Society
Volume17
Issue number1
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 2012
Externally publishedYes

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