NZMSS-AMSA 2016 Conference - Indigenous engagement panel discussion

This is a summary of the Indigenous Engagement Panel Discussion held at the joint NZMSS-AMSA Conference in 2016.

He moana pukepuke, e ekengia e te waka – Mountainous seas can be navigated in a canoe
Nā Kingi Ihaka, Te Ao Hou, No. 22 (April 1958)

The Māori proverb above highlights that working together to achieve a common and agreed objective is the most effective way forward. Meaningful engagement between indigenous peoples and the science sector provides many opportunities to resolve some of the complex issues we face today, but these must be founded upon an open and genuine desire to work together. Following on from the NZMSS-AMSA 2016 Plenary delivered by Rawiri Smith, and the presentation session on cross-cultural research, this panel discussion aims to open up a dialogue between indigenous peoples (practitioners, researchers and leaders) and the marine science community. It also aims to strengthen learnings and relationships across the Tasman.

Over many generations, indigenous communities have developed a deep an enduring connection to, and custodial relationship with the marine ecosystems that support their livelihoods and well-being.  Recent shifts towards ecosystem-based management have emphasised the unique and vital contribution that indigenous peoples, values and knowledge bring to the conversation about socio-ecological systems. Engaging with indigenous communities is often a significant component of marine science, and cultural competency can often be the key to successful and meaningful research.  Cultural competency and responsiveness requires learning, identifying challenges, and seeking solutions to improve both indigenous engagement with science and science engagement with indigenous communities.

Indigenous engagement within the New Zealand science system is promoted through national governmental policy (the Vision Mātauranga Policy1) that seeks to support “unlocking the potential of Māori knowledge, resources and people,” by “supporting research that concerns distinctive issues and needs arising within Māori communities.” This means that in New Zealand a great deal of research moves past engagement and into a collaborative and co-production space. This is not always the case, or an easy journey, and our panellists will provide insight into the challenges and successes of their journey from an experienced iwi (tribal)/Māori perspective. As a tribal people, one framework for engagement does not fit all, meaning it is often through shared learning, experiences and open communication that research succeeds. 

In Australia, Indigenous engagement within the science system is currently promoted through a number of different mechanisms, including Traditional Owner driven processes, agencies, working groups, and ethical committees across the country.  Australia differs to New Zealand as there is no national policy to help ensure Indigenous values, Indigenous knowledge systems and community priorities are recognised and responded to meaningfully through research that is inclusive, relevant, and beneficial.  In Australia, we need to move on from having the same repetitive discussions about improving Indigenous engagement to actually establishing an Indigenous driven and led research agenda that establishes the guidelines for building collaborative partnerships across Australian Indigenous communities.   For best practice to spread across Australia, important messages about cross-cultural research needs to be recognised and shared amongst all relevant bodies in order to grow those existing collaborative partnerships beyond a few Australian Indigenous communities.  The Australian Indigenous panellists will share their experiences and insights into strengthening and advancing collaborative relationships. This panel discussion will lead into a further workshop to be held during the AMSA conference in Darwin, Australia, during July 2017.

We hope that by beginning the discussions in this panel session between indigenous peoples who have been engaged in the science system from both countries, and involving the audience at the conference, we can highlight the successes and consider some of the issues that have arisen in the past, to enable us to navigate the mountainous seas ahead.


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Cass Hunter

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