Building resilience in indigenous communities through engagement – a focus on biosecurity threats

Project Number


Project Type & Status


Project Leader


Alby Marsh
Linda Ford
Indigenous group

Impact Delivery Themes

Building resilience in indigenous communities through engagement – a focus on biosecurity threats

Through consultation with New Zealand Māori and Australian Aboriginal communities, this project has developed a bi-cultural engagement model that highlights key cultural principles and values widely recognised by Indigenous communities to help maintain/retain knowledge, empowerment and ownership in their communities when responding to biosecurity threats.

These engagement models have broad application and can target government agencies and officials; research, science and technology providers; regulatory and industry agencies involved in biosecurity incursions; as well as community stakeholders. The key is to develop consistency in the process used by these agencies when engaging Indigenous communities and community stakeholders.

The project has been extended until 31 March 2018 to focus on socialising the models developed in PBCRC4041 with government agencies (including researchers). Increasing familiarity and confidence in using the model and its application, either through adapting it to the specific needs of agencies or broadening its scope, will be the impetus to having the model adopted as a standard procedure for engaging with Indigenous communities. The models offer agencies and other government groups a consistent and inclusive approach to engaging.

The extension project will undertake four broad activities:

Activity 1: Establish support and reference networks to develop, enhance and grow familiarity and understanding of the Indigenous engagement models.

Activity 2: Adapt the New Zealand model to be effectively used for preparedness and response for selected invasive species.

Activity 3: Adapt the Australian model for tomato potato psyllid (TPP), myrtle rust, cucumber mottle mosaic virus, banana freckle and Panama disease tropical race 4.

Activity 4: Measure and evaluate the impact, uptake and adoption of the Indigenous engagement models.

This project has been designed to enhance the ability of indigenous communities, regulatory authorities and industries to better manage the social, environmental and economic impacts of biosecurity threats. It also aims to encourage people to participate in biosecurity strategies by describing and evaluating bi-cultural engagement models that build empowerment and ownership in indigenous communities and their response to those threats.

Biosecurity issues impact on key crops and environmental values across New Zealand (NZ), Australia and Indonesia. The tomato-potato psyllid (TPP) has devastated commercial potato and tomato production. Today, Māori cannot produce taewa (Māori potato) without insecticides and are choosing to grow alternative traditional crops such as kūmara and kamokamo (Māori squash, Cucurbita pepo). The Plant and Food Research New Zealand Te Raranga Ahumāra programme supports this transition and is generating a greater understanding of biosecurity threats to traditional Māori crops and ways to manage them.

Australian indigenous communities' economic, social and food land resources are threatened by biosecurity incursions from mining exploration and tourism. Indonesian communities wanting to reintroduce traditional food crops to increase food production locally face unknown biosecurity challenges. Regulatory authorities and relevant agencies such as the Northern Australia Quarantine Strategy, work with indigenous communities and seek to identify and systemically implement effective community engagement processes.

To date this project has:

  • Evaluated the NZ, Australian and Indonesian models for bi-cultural engagement with indigenous communities that face biosecurity incursions and evaluated its impact on the resilience to future incursions.

  • Designed engagement models appropriate for target communities to increase their capacity to recognise and respond to new biosecurity threats.

  • Presented engagement models for use by community, industry and government agencies.


It is expected that biosecurity agencies and other relevant RS&T providers in Australia, Indonesia and NZ will benefit through new processes for engaging more effectively with indigenous communities in their respective countries and improve their investment in biosecurity management with indigenous communities. For those agencies and their related communities there will be new and more responsive mechanisms to communicate and to provide input to biosecurity policy and response incursions, e.g. by establishing surveillance systems in remote communities, enhanced risk management assessment and  more accurate social impact assessments. 

For Aboriginal, Indonesian and Māori communities there will be an increased understanding of the risks and effects of biosecurity incursions on their community, their livelihoods, and food security. For those communities it will also provide an increased sense of ownership and involvement in biosecurity policy and response strategies. Government and other agencies will benefit from strengthened cross-cultural partnership approaches and broader engagement perspectives to inform community engagement  strategies.

Engagement Models

Download the Aboriginal indigenous engagement model.


Download the Maori engagement model.

Download the full Final Report