Since 2014, the Northern Hub has undertaken a number of linked projects around the theme of Building capacity in north Australian remote communities. Over the first research period, three broad-scale projects were commissioned:
- Savanna fire management— has focused on delivering:
- remote sensing tools (e.g. fire severity mapping) for fire managers, particularly for enhancing the capabilities of the North Australian Fire Information (NAFI) website, firenorth.org.au. A PhD student from Latvia, Grigoijs Goldberg, is undertaking a study to apply LiDAR technology to remotely assess savanna woody biomass. The larger project has been coordinated by Dr Andrew Edwards at CDU.
- an informed perspective about the tasks needing to be undertaken to better manage large flammable grassy weeds (e.g. Gamba and Mission grasses). This work is being undertaken by Associate Prof Samantha Setterfield based at the University of WA, and Dr Natalie Rossiter-Rachor from CDU. This project is due to be completed early 2018.
- developing the capacity of a new Indigenous women’s ranger group in the NT Gulf region, associated with the Waanyi-Garawa Rangers who operate out of Borroloola. This component is being undertaken as a PhD project by Kate van Wezel, based out of CDU.
- Scoping Indigenous governance and exploring enterprise opportunities to support EM in remote communities—focusing on:
- understanding the role of Indigenous governance arrangements in remote communities, particularly in Arnhem Land. An early component of this research was undertaken by ARPNet researchers in Ngukurr and Gunbalanya, where they sampled over 100 persons in each community to find out what the communities thought about factors contributing to ‘community resilience’, and what needed to be done to improve their preparedness for a large ‘hazard event’. Results of that work are available in a number of published papers and reports.
- further work undertaken, principally by NAILSMA, has involved the funding of Indigenous researchers in Galiwinku to assess how members of the community could have been better prepared for events like Cyclones Lam and Nathan in 2015. A key finding of that work has been the identification that the community needs to re-empower traditional governance structures through the development of a ‘community interface’, rather than leave key decision-making to non-Indigenous (and non-representative) governance structures (e.g. Local Council). The research is continuing.
- thirdly, an initial assessment was undertaken looking at how Indigenous ranger groups in remote communities could provide more effective front-line preparedness and response capabilities. That work looked at developing economic opportunities for Ranger groups particularly in the Ngukurr and Gunbalanya regions, but also more widely in the Top End, and was undertaken by Dr Kamal Sangha and Prof Jeremy Russell-Smith (CDU), and Prof Bob Costanza (Australian National University). This work is being extended under a new BNHCRC project described below.
- North Australian bushfire and natural hazard training
- In recognition that much bushfire and natural hazard training is based on ‘southern Australian’ models and does not realistically address the requirements of many people who live in the bush, this project has set out to collaboratively develop appropriate training packages addressing standard industry competencies but developed around remote community needs.
- The project will continue into 2018 and hopefully beyond and has been led by Steve Sutton in consultation with training providers, ARPNet, and remote community participants. Steve provides a short description below of the first training exercise at Malngyangarnak, in Arnhem Land.