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Paying Respect to Elders Past and Present

We at Australasian Palaeontologists acknowledge Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Peoples as the traditional owners and custodians of Country. Australasian Palaeontologists acknowledges the relationship of First Nations people with the land, sea, and sky which comprise the focus of our work. 


Australasian Palaeontologists is committed to the inclusion of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander People within our Earth Science community. Below are some resources to assist our non-Indigenous members to engage in respectful discourse, study, and research.


Turning Acknowledgement into Action


There are many reasons to seek to create a meaningful relationship and partnership with the First Nations People. Probably the most important is to decrease the legacy of exclusion that First Nations People have faced, and continue to face, when making decisions about their land and sea. Creating participatory partnerships allows both the researcher and the First Nations community  to engage in a process that is equitable and can lead to a sustainable relationship.

When research is being conducted on First Nations Peoples land, there may be cultural lore that researchers are unaware of. Thus, it is possible that your research could be violating these cultural lore unintentionally. When the violation of these cultural lore occurs it can create tension with the First Nations community and could hamper research. Elders of the Country on which you are working on, can tell you where you can and cannot work in accordance with their traditions.


1. Two way knowledge sharing: when you share your research knowledge and help build capacity in a First Nations community, they may be able to provide vital cultural or traditional ecological knowledge in return. Thus helping to combine traditional knowledge and western science.

2. Empowerment: when you meaningfully include First Nations People in the research process you are increasing their agency to make decisions for themselves and for the land that they are connected to.

3. Implementing research recommendations: First Nations People are in the best position to advise on the care for Country.


To start the process of engaging First Nations communities:

  1. Contact the Aboriginal Land Council of the Country you would like to conduct research on. The Local Land Council should be able to put you in touch with the Traditional Owner of that area.

  2. Reach out to the Traditional Owners of the area and organise a meeting.

  3. When arranging the meeting, be upfront about the goal of the meeting. Be open in the meeting and listen to the contributions that the Elders and Traditional Owners share with you.

  4. Try to employ First Nations People in your research work: i.e. Citizen Science programs. First Nations People who contribute essential knowledge and skill should be financially compensated.

  5. If any type of cultural knowledge is collected as a part of the study, make sure that the First Nations People have control of the cultural knowledge and how it is used.

  6. Acknowledge the contribution First Nations communities make to the research project.

  7. Send a report back to the traditional custodians that you have worked with on the research, and deliver an oral or digitised report back to the community so that new knowledge are shared and disseminated.


Here are a few resources to help you learn about First Nations People and their culture.

Common Ground:

A website working towards a society that celebrates and embraces First Nations people. It shares First Nations cultures, lived experiences, and histories.

Welcome to Country App:

This app has curated Welcome to Country videos from Traditional Owners. It has GPS capability to identify the First Nations country you are in. It will display the information of the local First Nation culture.

Australian Institute for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Studies:

This is a map for displaying the Clan boundaries of First Nations Peoples. It can be handy to identify whose Country you are on.

The AIATIS website also has informative documents about research protocols of how to appropriately engage First Nations Peoples:

This section was written by Kataya Barrett and Elizabeth Dowding. Kataya Barrett is a Gumbaynggirr and Bundjalung woman from the North Coast of NSW working on marine sciences.

If you have any suggestions or additional resources, please contact us.

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