The project ‘Building Resilience in Indigenous Communities through Engagement: A Focus on Biosecurity Threats’ had its fourth year of operation in 2016-17. The research team continued to focus on developing and implementing scientific knowledge, tools, resources and capacity to safeguard the plant industries and regional communities of Australia, New Zealand and Indonesia from the economic, environmental and social consequences of plant pests and diseases.
Plant Biosecurity CRC has invested in numerous projects across a diverse and innovative portfolio. The breadth of research being delivered has included, for example, new controls to engage Indigenous communities and to adapt better surveillance for pest and disease incursions. The project has significantly grown awareness and understanding of the Indigenous Engagement Model (IEM) amongst Indigenous communities, industry and key stakeholders. A successful biosecurity response depends on stakeholders understanding the impact of plant diseases such as myrtle rust in native ecosystems and the importance of ‘peace time’ surveillance and rapid response to incursions. This reporting year, our team also focused on finalising research delivery pathways to the end-users.
This extension program has focused on testing the previously developed Indigenous Engagement Models with government agencies and Indigenous communities in Australia and New Zealand (also known as a “roll–out”). The aims were to ensure that the end-users benefit from the development of the models and that the outcomes of the project are achieved.
The key activities associated with the extension program were socialising and testing the model with government agencies and communicating how the model should be used by them. The goal was for the agencies to adopt the models as standard procedure for engaging and communicating with Indigenous communities. The models offer these groups a consistent and inclusive approach to engaging with Indigenous groups.
The models have established guidance for all biosecurity stakeholders. They also allow stakeholders to benchmark Indigenous engagement and for people to take ownership of the biosecurity response team approach. Both the response team and the Indigenous community can gain more understanding of what is required of a peace time response and/or rapid response. The models provide universal guidelines applicable for all end-users.
It should be mentioned that there is a risk that the Indigenous reference group, industries and stakeholder advisory networks use the model for an incursion in an ad hoc manner. This may result in alternative practices that do not offer a universal framework for a peace time response.
It was identified at the Australian biosecurity workshops that in some instances a peace time response may not be practical as it is too slow. In contrast, the rapid response strategy eliminates the initial steps and the last two steps. It is also vital for industries impacted by an incursion to maintain the connections with Indigenous communities and to invest in the ongoing development of relationships when a responsive act is initiated by the State, Territory or Commonwealth.
The more Indigenous communities, industries and stakeholders adopt the Indigenous Engagement Models, the more they will become a useful tool for incursion responsiveness and preparedness, and a tangible practice with real benefits for all parties.