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Dr Emma Woodward

Senior research scientist


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Contact details:

PO BOX 7229


I am a Senior Research Scientist and leader in co-design who brings together different knowledge systems and types to deliver collaborative solutions to land and sea management at regional and national scales. Based with CSIRO Land & Water in Perth, Australia, my research frequently involves partnering with Australian Indigenous communities to co-develop methods, tools, protocols and guidelines that can facilitate understanding and inclusion of diverse knowledges, values and interests in natural resource planning and management and enterprise development.

Through applying tailored social science methodologies, I provide strategic leadership in the adoption of transdisciplinary methods and tools to realise socio-ecological sustainability. Engaging participatory and reflexive approaches I cultivate trust, respect, flexibility, and adaptability to mobilize, translate and integrate knowledge, responding to partners’ and clients’ needs in often complex socio-political environments. Applications I co-lead to weave western science and Indigenous knowledge help policy- and decision-makers better understand and engage with multiple knowledge systems, and these approaches are now being applied in the Murray-Darling Basin and in State of Environment reporting.

Over the past 15 years I've particularly enjoyed working to deliver outcomes in the fields of Indigenous ecological knowledge systems, land and sea management, knowledge networking & Indigenous livelihoods, realising impact in water allocation planning in northern Australia; the teaching of Indigenous knowledge systems in classrooms nationally; and influencing the adoption of Indigenous approaches to land management via the Intergovernmental Science-Policy Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services (IPBES). Research I have led and contributed to has been further adopted by state and federal government agencies, peak industry bodies, NGOs, and Indigenous and community organisations across the domains of agriculture, education, health, water, and biodiversity.

Other Interests

Our Knowledge Our Way Guidelines

Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples own and manage around 46% of Australia’s National Reserve System and have knowledge systems that have developed over thousands of generations. Researchers’ and policy-makers’ ability to work effectively with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples is central to solving some of the nation’s most complex environmental challenges and supporting alternative methods to manage the land and seascape. The Our Knowledge Our Way (OKOW) transdisciplinary science initiative produced the first Indigenous-led guidelines for best practices when working with Indigenous knowledge in caring for Country.

We worked intensively with our partners - North Australian Indigenous Land and Sea Management Alliance; Australian Committee for IUCN; and the National Environmental Science Program - to facilitate over 100 Indigenous contributions to the development of the Guidelines. These are the first such guidelines nationally (none are available internationally) and one of the first national examples of genuine co-design with Indigenous peoples, now recognized as the best-practice approach across the Indigenous health, welfare, business, research and other sectors.

Founded on 23 case studies submitted by Indigenous land and sea managers from across Australia, the Guidelines highlight how Indigenous knowledge is kept strong through access to Country and Indigenous cultural governance of knowledge. The key guiding principle is that Indigenous people must decide what is best practice in working with Indigenous knowledge. The Guidelines cut across four themes: strengthening Indigenous knowledge; strong partnerships; sharing and weaving knowledge; and Indigenous land and sea networks.

The outcomes of the OKOW Guidelines have made a foundational impact in setting a new standard in how to engage Indigenous peoples in partnering with science:

• The originality and successful application of this effort has resulted in immediate impact with the OKOW research approach adopted by the State of the Environment (SOE) 2021 – leading to an inaugural Indigenous Theme; new authorship and content guidelines including Indigenous authorship; and support for Indigenous-led case studies across all Themes

• The WA Government adopted the approach in the development of their Indigenous- co-authored Bring Together Walk Together Aboriginal Partnership Engagement Framework (2021) which directs the reader to engage with the Guidelines to support interpretation ( The Department described OKOW as ‘an exemplar for Aboriginal-led partnerships for science and planning in Australia’.

• The QLD Department of Environment and Science reference the Guidelines as a key resource in their draft Traditional Knowledge in Biodiscovery Code of Practice and Guidelines (2021).

Current Roles

  • Section Lead
    National Ecosystem Accounting Project (NEAP)

  • Project co-lead
    Larrakia-led biodiversity values of Darwin, Darwin Living Lab

Academic Qualifications

  • 2019

    PhD -The critical role of network brokers in strengthening Indigenous land and sea management in Australia
    University of Western Australia

  • 2000

    BSc (Env) Hons (Class 1) Geography
    University of Western Australia

Achievements and Awards

  • 2021-2021

    R&D Excellence Award: Northern Australia Water Resource Assessment
    Australian Water Association's Australian Water Awards

  • 2020-2020

    Collaboration Medal - North Australian Water Resources Assessment Team

  • 2020-2020

    Land and Water Science Communication Award - Our Knowledge Our Way Guidelines

  • 2020-2020

    Exemplary Leadership - Our Knowledge Our Way Guidelines

  • 2018-2018

    Ruby Payne-Scott Award

  • 2014-2014

    Chief Executive Study Award

  • 2012-2012

    National Finalist
    Fresh Science Awards

We have publications by Dr Emma Woodward