Desert Knowledge CRC Exit Report

Desert Knowledge CRC Exit Report Report

  • Author(s): Desert Knowledge CRC,
  • Published: 2010
  • Publisher: Desert Knowledge CRC

Abstract: The Desert Knowledge Cooperative Research Centre (DKCRC) commenced its operations on 1 July 2003 and closed on 30 June 2010. These two dates frame a remarkable and intensive seven-year period of research, training, capacity building, research application and community engagement in Australia’s desert regions. In that short period of time a diverse array of organisations and individuals set out on a course of dramatic change: change in the way research is framed in the desert; change in the way communities are engaged in research; change in the way organisations collaborate; and change in the way that the outcomes of research are applied on a day-to-day level in the real lives of desert people. This Exit Report outlines the impact of those changes and describes how the DKCRC’s outcomes matched the goals that its signatories laid out in their agreement with the Australian Government in 2003. Outcome areas were articulated in the Commonwealth Agreement and came under three program areas. To achieve these outcomes the activity of the DKCRC was organised into three program areas: – Desert Enterprises, with a principal outcome of sustainable livelihoods for desert people based on natural resource management and service enterprise opportunities that are environmentally and socially appropriate. – Desert Systems, with two main outcomes: to develop sustainable desert settlements that support the presence of desert people as a result of improved and efficient governance and access to services; and thriving desert regional economies that are based on desert competitive advantages, bringing together Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal communities, government and industry. – Desert Solutions, with three main outcomes: to ensure that graduates are more aware of desert issues and more prepared to come and work in desert Australia; to develop links between local knowledge and Western science, leading to better integration and understanding of the value of different knowledge; and consolidation and integration of information about desert Australia. Within these program areas a coalition of business groups, universities, Aboriginal organisations, research bodies and residents of desert settlements undertook and applied research. The following short list illustrates the breadth of our achievements. – Our Research Report on Population and Mobility in Town Camps provided the first correct assessment of the numbers of people living in Alice Springs Town Camps and their mobility patterns. The study ultimately resulted in an Australian Government allocation of $120 million for new housing, water and sewage works; Aboriginal researchers who were trained to collect and analyse data on the project obtained more work on the 2006 Australian Census and in other ways. – Our Desert Fire project produced Australia’s first large-scale investigation into the scale, frequency and impact of wildfires on infrastructure, productivity and biodiversity. The project won the Northern Territory Government’s Desert Knowledge Innovation Award. – Our work on remote settlement water management led the Australian Government to make recommendations to the National Water Commission and project outcomes became part of the Australian Drinking Water Guidelines produced by the National Health and Medical Research Council. – Groundbreaking research provided a firm evidence base that helping to retain Aboriginal people ‘on country’ not only leads to healthier, happier people but also placed a dollar value on reduced healthcare costs. – Our work with Aboriginal wild-food harvesters, growers and processors led to a more robust supply chain and more jobs, enterprises and skills for people living on country and in remote areas. – Our work on technologies to increase the productivity of desert pastoral enterprises saw the development of a remote livestock management system which is now being commercialised. – Our research into feral camels led directly to the Australian Government’s decision to back a $38 million feral camel population reduction project, which among other things will employ and train Aboriginal people. – To date our research has resulted in the publication of 59 research reports, 61 working papers, 287 conference papers and 102 journal papers, of which 30 are in ISI-ranked journals. There are more publications in the pipeline.1 – Our international collaboration saw the uptake of the Australian desert knowledge model in South Africa through the initiation of the Karoo Development Foundation. This summary illustrates the breadth and depth of the DKCRC’s work in Australia’s deserts, all at a time of immense change and upheaval. Our period of operation spanned several events that had significant impacts on Australia’s desert communities, not least of these being: – the enormous growth in international demand for commodities and mineral resources, and the shortage of skilled professionals to service that demand – the global financial crisis that threatened those markets and many desert livelihoods – a period of extended drought that, in parts of the inland, was the worst in many decades – governance issues such as the Australian Government’s Northern Territory Emergency Response, the dissolution of one core partner (ATSIC) within our first year of operation, and the Northern Territory Government’s introduction of a shire system. DKCRC adapted to these possibly damaging impacts because flexibility, response to extreme variation, and turning a challenge into an opportunity is what desert people do. This CRC can look back proudly on its ability to negotiate and implement change during times of change. Importantly, the DKCRC did not just carry out and apply research during its lifetime. Through its partners and through capacity-building exercises with people in remote settlements the DKCRC has ensured that its research will continue to contribute to Australia’s desert future for years to come.

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Desert Knowledge CRC,, 2010, Desert Knowledge CRC Exit Report, Report, viewed 03 December 2023,

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