Using knowledge to care for country: Indigenous-led evaluations of research to adaptively co-manage Kakadu National Park, Australia

Cathy J. Robinson, Jennifer Mairi Macdonald, Michael Douglas, Justin Perry, Samantha Setterfield, Dennis Cooper, Maria Lee, Jonathan Nadji, Sean Nadji, Alfred Nayinggul, Anita Nayinggul, Kenneth Mangiru, Fred Hunter, Bessie Coleman, Ryan Barrowei, Joe Markham, Jessie Alderson, Feach Moyle, Kadeem May, Na gangila Bangalang

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

12 Citations (Scopus)


Sustainability science research conducted with Indigenous collaborators must be Indigenous-led and achieve impacts that are grounded in local values and priorities, both for ethical reasons and to achieve more robust outcomes. However, there has been limited focus on determining how best to evaluate the way research is used, shared and created to adaptively solve complex sustainable issues facing Indigenous lands. In this paper, we outline a collaborative and adaptive approach for conducting Indigenous-led evaluations of sustainability research and show how this approach was applied to evaluate cross-cultural knowledge co-production practice and impact in Australia’s jointly managed and World Heritage-listed Kakadu National Park. As part of an Indigenous-led research project, indicators were co-developed by Indigenous and non-Indigenous research team members to monitor the health of the knowledge-sharing and co-production practices that underpinned the design, management and success of the project’s research activities. The evaluations focused on determining whether research activities were providing negotiated benefits for local Indigenous people; helping to restore and protect agreed values in priority areas; and supporting Indigenous-led collaborative knowledge sharing and research practices. In Kakadu, we show how the Indigenous-led design of the research evaluation empowered the usability and benefits of knowledge which was negotiated, shared and co-created. The approach shows how sustainability science can be evaluated by Indigenous leaders to test if and how research practice and impact is responding to their priorities for their traditional estates.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)377-390
Number of pages14
JournalSustainability Science
Issue number2
Early online date29 Jul 2021
Publication statusPublished - Mar 2022

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
The project received funding from the Australian Government’s National Environmental Science Program (NESP) Northern Australia Environmental Resources Hub and support from CSIRO’s Responsible Innovation Future Science Program (RI FSP). This research received human ethics clearance from CSIRO (050/18) and Charles Darwin University (H18055).

Publisher Copyright:
© 2021, The Author(s), under exclusive licence to Springer Japan KK, part of Springer Nature.

Copyright 2021 Elsevier B.V., All rights reserved.


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