“Waka Ngurrkanhayngu: Regenerating the existence of life”: Reducing the risk of natural and social disasters - reviving and strengthening

Start date
Research partner(s)
University of Canberra (on behalf of: Yalu Marŋgithinyaraw Aboriginal Corporation, Menzies School of Health, Swinburne University of Technology & Australian Securities & Investments Commission)

Reducing disaster risks is an urgent priority. Especially in Northern Australia substantial natural processes seriously threaten human health and life, and bear enormous environmental, social and economic costs. Remote Indigenous communities are particularly vulnerable to disasters due to colonisation. For example, in 2015, the very remote island community Galiwin’ku was hit by two category 4 cyclones costing over $80 million, causing ecological damages, leaving over 250 residents homeless and creating ongoing psychological trauma.

Yet, Indigenous knowledges and practices are increasingly recognised as the key to reducing the risk of disasters, leading to the UN Sendai Framework for Disaster Risk Reduction (DRR) (2017) calling for reviving and strengthening Indigenous knowledges and adaptive capacities using community-based approaches.  However, there is limited knowledge about how to facilitate the revival and to embed Indigenous strengths-based DRR within community development. Building on a recent scoping project, Indigenous and non-Indigenous peoples will work together two-way to facilitate Galiwin’ku reviving and strengthening their Yolŋu law, knowledges and cultural practices, especially governance, to heal from disasters, (re)build Indigenous capacities that reduce the risk of natural and social disasters, and increase recognition of the value of Indigenous culture.

This project is initiated and led by the community-based research organisation Yalu Marŋgithinyaraw. It represents phase 2 of an overarching research agenda. This project builds upon strong, long-term, respectful research relationships resulting from genuine two-way exchanges between community-based Indigenous researchers and scholars from the University of Canberra and Menzies School of Health Research.

Within a central Yolŋu methodology, we integrate Indigenous and critical qualitative research using community-based participatory action research. This methodology (re)unites research and education in ways that privilege Indigenous knowledges (arts-based, transformative research) . We will use a two-stage iterative design:

Stage 1: We will gather stories from community members via individual conversations and yarning circles in local languages. The stories will draw out DRR relevant Yolŋu knowledges and culture. They will uncover the deeper (true) stories of how natural and social disasters, and DRR and community development are linked. The stories will further reveal the community’s educational needs. We will jointly interpret, analyse and feed back the stories to the community using two-way exchange yarning circles.

Stage 2: Based on stage one findings, we will co-create, co-implement and co-evaluate two-way transformative DRR education pathways that draw out and integrate DRR relevant Yolŋu and Western knowledges to revive and strengthen Yolŋu knowledges and practices (e.g., governance, exchange with Indigenous Taiwanese and Pakistani, women and men sharing power, intergenerational exchange). We will jointly interpret, analyse and feed back the evaluation stories to the community using two-way exchange yarning circles.

We developed this research approach through working together on large-scale award-winning collaborative projects (Whole of Community Engagement Initiative, Manymak Energy Efficiency Project) and the scoping project. The co-created knowledges and evaluation will help build the evidence base and enable us to extend the project to other Yolŋu communities (Phase 3).


There are no listed outputs for this project.