Australian Indigenous Biocultural Knowledge

In 2013 BioCultural Consulting (John Locke) participated on the Australian Indigenous Biocultural Knowledge Working Group to finalise agreed products that would raise awareness about the richness, value and plethora of Indigenous biocultural knowledge (IBK) projects that have been undertaken in Australia. To achieve these aims, three products were originally discussed.

  • An indicative map showing where and when Indigenous biocultural knowledge has been documented across Australia
  • A discussion paper to go with the map, providing an overview of richness, value and plethora of IBK and how it can and must be involved in broader ecological debate and natural resource management in Australia
  • A website to promote information to the broader public

The indicative map shows spatial and temporal extent of projects where Indigenous peoples have recorded Indigenous biocultural knowledge, and includes information recorded by Indigenous peoples or collaborative works with non-Indigenous people. However, it excludes documented Indigenous biocultural knowledge recorded by non-Indigenous people alone through mainstream projects such as archaeological research.

This project focused on publicly available and accessible information, although to demonstrate that many other projects are being conducted and are not in the publically available space, the Working Group wil work with Aboriginal Ethnobotantist (Gerry Turpin) and the Tropical Indigenous Ethnobotany Centre Indigenous Working Group to produce case studies currently in operation in this ethnobotany area and information on living cultural landscapes and knowledge.

The Working Group worked on a "literature review" collecting publically available references (only) to materials including:

  • place-based material (geo-referenced and placed on the map)
  • methodological material (useful for people who want to learn more about how other people have recorded and suggest recording Indigenous biocultural knowledge)
  • review material (broader reviews of IBK - such as published books on ethnobotany)
  • related material (that may be of interest to people who work or want to work in this area)

The second workshop went through database (reference lists) and refined the list and chose examples to highlight in the website and discussion paper. In producing a map, analysis of the spatial and temporal spread of works and further analysis of other bioregional and township proximity data were considered.

Development of the website is being undertaken in collaboration with the Australian Centre for Ecological Analysis & Synthesis.

The Australian Indigenous Biocultural Knowledge Working Group identifies that this approach will not be a complete list of ALL documented knowledge - but hope that building on this approach over time will add to the INDICATIVE map where and when knowledge has been recorded, and showcase "hotspots" of documented knowledge where recent work has added to the level of biocultural detail.

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The specific aims of the Australian Indigenous Biocultural Knowledge project are:

  • provide a national overview of available (documented and living) Indigenous biocultural data (data in a variety of forms including multi-media and as expert knowledge)
  • produce a multi-layer GIS map illustrating where knowledge has been documented and where gaps, strengths and opportunities for further work are
  • provide a set of recommendations on how Indigenous biocultural knowledge could be better adopted in Australian natural and cultural reseource management and ecology 

John is one of a number of co-authors contributing to the development of the discussion paper, "Overview of biocultural knowledge in Australia and benefits for Australian ecology and environmental conservation".