Sustainability Science

, Volume 11, Issue 1, pp 115–126 | Cite as

Participatory mapping to negotiate indigenous knowledge used to assess environmental risk

  • Catherine J. RobinsonEmail author
  • Kirsten Maclean
  • Ro Hill
  • Ellie Bock
  • Phil Rist
Special Feature: Original Article Weaving Indigenous and Sustainability Sciences to Diversify Our Methods (WIS2DOM)
Part of the following topical collections:
  1. Special Feature: Weaving Indigenous and Sustainability Sciences to Diversify Our Methods (WIS2DOM)


The concept of “usable knowledge” is central to sustainability science, but most of the research that explores this concept focuses on the science–policy interface. This paper expands this scholarship by describing a participatory research methodology that aimed to facilitate knowledge sharing between indigenous peoples, and support indigenous community efforts to consider different knowledge claims and negotiate indigenous knowledge that could be used for environmental risk assessments and management responses. We draw on two case studies to show how a participatory mapping approach enabled Aboriginal people connected to the Girringun Indigenous Corporation (Girringun) in northern Australia to negotiate the knowledge needed to assess the environmental risks that affect their territories. Individuals painted and drew maps of their values, knowledge, and management aspirations for water and native vegetation. These maps were shared with the wider group to enable the consideration of different perspectives and the negotiation of agreed risks affecting local watersheds and native vegetation. These maps were also used to facilitate the design of knowledge partnerships among the Girringun tribal groups, staff, and other collaborators that are critical to re-framing and co-managing the environmental risks affecting this region of northern Australia.


Indigenous rights Regional co-management agreements Mental maps Risk communication 



The authors wish to acknowledge the support of the CRC for Plant Biosecurity, CSIRO Land and Water, the Payne Scott Award, and the Centre for the Institute of the Environment and the Centre for Climate Adaptation Science and Solutions (CCASS). We also thank Dr Beau Austin and Colleen Corrigan for reviewing an earlier version of this paper and for the helpful advice from the anonymous reviewers.


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Copyright information

© Springer Japan 2015

Authors and Affiliations

  • Catherine J. Robinson
    • 1
    • 2
    Email author
  • Kirsten Maclean
    • 1
  • Ro Hill
    • 3
  • Ellie Bock
    • 4
  • Phil Rist
    • 5
  1. 1.CSIRO Land and WaterDutton ParkAustralia
  2. 2.The Northern InstituteCharles Darwin UniversityDarwinAustralia
  3. 3.CSIRO Land and WaterCairnsAustralia
  4. 4.Regional Advisory and Innovation Network (RAIN) PtyKentAustralia
  5. 5.Girringun Indigenous CorporationCardwellAustralia

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