CSIRO Publishing blank image blank image blank image blank imageBooksblank image blank image blank image blank imageJournalsblank image blank image blank image blank imageAbout Usblank image blank image blank image blank imageShopping Cartblank image blank image blank image You are here: Journals > The Rangeland Journal   
The Rangeland Journal
  Rangeland Ecology & Management
blank image Search
blank image blank image
blank image
  Advanced Search

Journal Home
About the Journal
Editorial Structure
Online Early
Current Issue
Just Accepted
All Issues
Special Issues
Research Fronts
Sample Issue
Call for Papers
For Authors
General Information
Submit Article
Author Instructions
Open Access
For Referees
Referee Guidelines
Review an Article
Annual Referee Index
For Advertisers
For Subscribers
Subscription Prices
Customer Service
Print Publication Dates

blue arrow e-Alerts
blank image
Subscribe to our Email Alert or RSS feeds for the latest journal papers.

red arrow Connect with CP
blank image
facebook twitter logo LinkedIn


Article << Previous     |     Next >>   Contents Vol 36(1)

Working Knowledge: characterising collective indigenous, scientific, and local knowledge about the ecology, hydrology and geomorphology of Oriners Station, Cape York Peninsula, Australia

M. Barber A D, S. Jackson B, J. Shellberg B and V. Sinnamon C

A CSIRO Ecosystem Sciences, Brisbane, Qld 4102, Australia.
B Australian Rivers Institute, Griffith University, Brisbane, Qld 4222, Australia.
C Kowanyama Land and Natural Resource Management Office, Kowanyama, Qld 4892, Australia.
D Corresponding author. Email: Marcus.Barber@csiro.au

The Rangeland Journal 36(1) 53-66 http://dx.doi.org/10.1071/RJ13083
Submitted: 29 July 2013  Accepted: 25 October 2013   Published: 23 December 2013

 Full Text
 PDF (863 KB)
 Export Citation

The term, Working Knowledge, is introduced to describe the content of a local cross-cultural knowledge recovery and integration project focussed on the indigenous-owned Oriners pastoral lease near Kowanyama on the Cape York Peninsula, Queensland. Social and biophysical scientific researchers collaborated with indigenous people, non-indigenous pastoralists, and an indigenous natural resource management (NRM) agency to record key ecological, hydrological and geomorphological features of this intermittently occupied and environmentally valuable ‘flooded forest’ country. Working Knowledge was developed in preference to ‘local’ and/or ‘indigenous’ knowledge because it collectively describes the contexts in which the knowledge was obtained (through pastoral, indigenous, NRM, and scientific labour), the diverse backgrounds of the project participants, the provisional and utilitarian quality of the collated knowledge, and the focus on aiding adaptive management. Key examples and epistemological themes emerging from the knowledge recovery research, as well as preliminary integrative models of important hydro-ecological processes, are presented. Changing land tenure and economic regimes on surrounding cattle stations make this study regionally significant but the Working Knowledge concept is also useful in analysing the knowledge base used by the wider contemporary indigenous land management sector. Employees in this expanding, largely externally funded, and increasingly formalised sector draw on a range of knowledge in making operational decisions – indigenous, scientific, NRM, bureaucratic and knowledge learned in pastoral and other enterprises. Although this shared base is often a source of strength, important aspects or precepts of particular component knowledges must necessarily be deprioritised, compromised, or even elided in everyday NRM operations constrained by particular management logics, priorities and funding sources. Working Knowledge accurately characterised a local case study, but also invites further analysis of the contemporary indigenous NRM knowledge base and its relationship to the individual precepts and requirements of the indigenous, scientific, local and other knowledges which respectively inform it.

Additional keywords: hydro-ecological processes, indigenous knowledge, indigenous people, knowledge recovery, natural resource management.


Allan, C., and Stankey, G. (2009). ‘Adaptive Environmental Management: A Practitioner’s Guide.’ (CSIRO and Springer: Melbourne.)

Altman, J., and Kerins, S. (Eds) (2012). ‘People on Country: Vital Landscapes, Indigenous Futures.’ (Federation Press: Sydney.)

Altman, J., and Whitehead, P. (2003). ‘Caring for Country and Sustainable Indigenous Development: Opportunities, Constraints and Innovation.’ CAEPR Working Paper No. 20. (Centre for Aboriginal Economic Policy Research, Australian National University: Canberra.)

Barber, M., Shellberg, J., Jackson, S., and Sinnamon, V. (2012). ‘Working Knowledge: Local Ecological and Hydrological Knowledge about the Flooded Forest Country of Oriners Station, Cape York.’ (CSIRO: Darwin, NT.)

Burdon Torzillo and Associates (2000). ‘Oriners – Sefton: Desired Directions (Draft Report).’ (Burdon Torzillo and Associates, Pty Ltd: Alice Springs, NT.)

Crowley, G., Garnett, S., and Shephard, S. (2009). Impact of storm-burning on Melaleuca viridiflora invasion of grasslands and grassy woodlands on Cape York Peninsula, Australia. Austral Ecology 34, 196–209.
CrossRef |

Darby, P. (1993). ‘EPMs 8798, 8799, 8800 and 8801 Hann River Queensland, Final Report with Appendix on Heavy Mineral Content of Samples (Amdel BHP Minerals).’ (BHP Minerals: Melbourne.)

Ens, E. (2012). Conducting two-way ecological research. In: ‘People on Country: Vital Landscapes, Indigenous Futures’. (Eds J. Altman and S. Kerins.) pp. 45–64. (Federation Press: Sydney.)

Fabricius, C., Scholes, R., and Cundill, G. (2006). Mobilizing knowledge for integrated ecosystem assessments. In: ‘Bridging Scales and Knowledge Systems: Concepts and Applications in Ecosystem Assessment’. (Eds W. Reid, F. Berkes, T. Wilbanks and D. Capistrano.) pp. 165–182. (Island Press: Washington, DC.)

Gorman, J., and Vemuri, S. (2012). Social implications of bridging the gap through ‘caring for country in remote Indigenous communities of the Northern Territory, Australia. The Rangeland Journal 34, 63–73.
CrossRef |

Hamilton, P. (1996). Oykangand and Olkola multimedia dictionary. Available at: www.oocities.org/athens/delphi/2970/index.html (accessed 22 October 2013).

Hill, R., Grant, C., George, M., Robinson, C., Jackson, S., and Abel, N. (2012). A typology of indigenous engagement in Australian environmental management: implications for knowledge integration and social-ecological system sustainability. Ecology and Society 17, 23.
CrossRef |

Hill, R., Pert, P., Davies, J., Robinson, C., Walsh, F., and Falco-Mammone, F. (2013). ‘Indigenous Land Management in Australia: Extent, Scope, Diversity, Barriers and Success Factors.’ (CSIRO Ecosystem Sciences: Cairns, Qld.)

Holmes, J. (2010a). Divergent regional trajectories in Australia’s tropical savannas: indicators of a multifunctional rural transition. Geographical Research 48, 342–358.
CrossRef |

Holmes, J. (2010b). The multifunctional transition in Australia’s tropical savannas: the emergence of consumption, protection and Indigenous values. Geographical Research 48, 265–280.
CrossRef |

Ingold, T. (2010). Footprints through the weather-world: walking, breathing, knowing. The Journal of the Royal Anthropological Institute 16, S121–S139.
CrossRef |

KALNRMO (2010). ‘Kowanyama Wetlands Program: Technical Advisory Group Terms of Reference.’ (Kowanyama Aboriginal Land and Natural Resource Management Office: Kowanyama, Qld.)

Lane, M., Robinson, C., and Taylor, B. (2009). ‘Contested Country: Local and Regional Environmental Management in Australia.’ (CSIRO Publishing: Melbourne.)

Larsen, K. (2008). Aboriginal traditional owner aspirations for National Park homelands and the Cape York Peninsula Heritage Act 2007 (Qld). In: ‘Protecting Country: Indigenous Governance and Management of Protected Areas’. (Eds D. Smyth and G. Ward.) pp. 51–70. (AIATSIS: Canberra, ACT.)

Liedloff, A., Christophersen, P., McGregor, S., and McKaige, B. (2009). Representing Indigenous wetland ecological knowledge in a Bayesian Belief Network. In: ‘18th World IMACS Congress and MODSIM09 International Congress on Modelling and Simulation’. (Eds R. Anderssen, R. Braddock and L. Newham.) pp. 2842–2848. (Modelling and Simulation Society of Australia and New Zealand and International Association for Mathematics and Computers in Simulation: Cairns, Qld.)

Queensland Department of Environment and Resource Management (2007). ‘Water Resource (Mitchell) Plan. Water Act 2000.’ (Department of Environment and Resource Management: Brisbane.)

Robinson, C., and Wallington, T. (2012). Boundary work: engaging knowledge systems in co-management of feral animals on Indigenous lands. Ecology and Society 17, 16.
CrossRef |

Sharp, L. (1952). Steel axes for stone age Australians. Human Organization 11, 17–22.

Shellberg, J. (2011). Alluvial gully erosion rates and processes across the Mitchell River fluvial megafan in Northern Queensland, Australia. PhD Thesis, Griffith University, Brisbane, Australia.

Shellberg, J., Brooks, A., and Spencer, J. (2010). Land-use change from indigenous management to cattle grazing initiates the gullying of alluvial soils in northern Australia. In: ‘19th World Congress of Soil Science: Soil Solutions for a Changing World’. 1–6 August 2010. (Eds R. Gilkes and N. Prakongkep.) pp. 59–62. (World Congress of Soil Science: Brisbane.)

Shellberg, J., Brooks, A., Spencer, J., and Ward, D. (2013). The hydrogeomorphic influences on alluvial gully erosion along the Mitchell River fluvial megafan, northern Australia. Hydrological Processes 27, 1086–1104.
CrossRef |

Smith, B. (2005). ‘We got our own management’: local knowledge, government and development in Cape York Peninsula. Australian Aboriginal Studies 2, 4–15.

Sommer, B. (2006). ‘Speaking Kunjen: an Ethnography of Oykangand Kinship and Communication.’ (Pacific Linguistics, Australian National University: Canberra, ACT.)

State of the Environment Committee (2011). ‘Australia State of the Environment 2011 – in brief.’ Independent report to the Australian Government Minister for Sustainability, Environment, Water, Population and Communities. (Commonwealth of Australia: Canberra, ACT.)

Stewart, G., Hamilton, P., Yam, L., Yam, P., and Charlie, P. (1996). ‘Preliminary Plant Usage List for Oykangand, Olgol, and Pakanh Language Groups – Olgol Cultural Documentation Project.’ (Kowanyama: Kowanyama, Qld.)

Strang, V. (1996). Sustaining tourism in far north Queensland. In: ‘People and Tourism in Fragile Environments’. (Ed. M. Price.) pp. 51–67. (John Wiley: London.)

Strang, V. (1997). ‘Uncommon Ground: Cultural Landscapes and Environmental Values.’ (Berg: Oxford, UK.)

Strang, V. (1999). Familiar forms: homologues, culture, and gender in North Australia. The Journal of the Royal Anthropological Institute 5, 75–95.
CrossRef |

Strang, V. (2001). ‘Country bla we’: Kunjen country on the Cape York Peninsula.’ Unpublished and restricted report for the Kowanyama community. (Kowanyama Aboriginal Land and Natural Resource Management Office: Kowanyama, Qld.)

Strang, V. (2004). Poisoning the rainbow: cosmology and pollution in Cape York. In: ‘Mining and Indigenous Lifeworlds in Australia and Papua New Guinea’. (Eds A. Rumsey and J. Weiner.) pp. 208–225. (Sean Kingston Publishing: Wantage, UK.)

Strang, V. (2005). Meaningful differences: dis-integrated management in the Mitchell River catchment. In: ‘Sustainable Communities, Sustainable Environments’. (Ed. M. Minnegal.) pp. 60–69. (SAGES, University of Melbourne: Melbourne.)

Walsh, F., Dobson, V., and Douglas, J. (2013). Anpernirrentye: a framework for enhanced application of indigenous ecological knowledge in natural resource management. Ecology and Society 18, 18.
CrossRef |


Legal & Privacy | Contact Us | Help


© CSIRO 1996-2015