CSIRO-CDU Collaboration on Responsible Innovation

September 1st, 2020

Examining pathways to empower Indigenous-led digital innovation and AI-applications for sustainable futures in remote and regional Australia

Project Duration: 14 June 2019 – 1 March 2023

Enabling Indigenous-led AI platform design in Kakadu National Park

Credit: Mitch Fong

Indigenous-led Artificial Intelligence (AI) design and technologies for sustainable regional futures

The Challenge

Artificial intelligence (AI) and digital capabilities enable us to use large volumes of data to reveal fresh insights into environmental risks and processes. At the same time an increasing need exists to ensure science and technology developed to tackle environmental risks are designed, deployed and delivered with social context in mind as a core goal. This means ensuring our science and technology does not create negative outcomes that outweigh the positive impacts and being able to demonstrate how new innovations are making a positive contribution to Australian society.

A key area of responsible innovation that promises positive impact now and in coming decades is the Indigenous-led design of AI that can create sustainable Indigenous futures. AI innovators need to effectively consider issues around Indigenous rights, stewardship, data sovereignty, trust and sustainability in cross-cultural contexts to assist with this process.

Responding to the Challenge

Australia’s national science agency CSIRO has partnered with the Centre of Indigenous Futures, Arts and Society at Charles Darwin University (CDU). Senior science leaders from CSIRO, CDU and Indigenous communities will work together to support an early career social science researcher who will focus on Indigenous-led AI design and applications to support Indigenous environmental decisions and sustainable futures.

Dr Jennifer Macdonald has been appointed to undertake collaborative research in areas relating to applications of AI and Machine Learning (ML) to enhance Indigenous environmental decision-making; and, will have opportunity to link to a cohort of early career researchers in the Responsible Innovation FSP who are based at CSIRO, the University of Queensland (UQ), and the Australian National University (ANU).

This work recognises that most of the planet’s vital ecosystems are managed on lands owned by Indigenous peoples.  Many challenges exist in managing these lands, including rapidly growing threats causing species extinctions and ecosystem losses. These challenges are increasing in scale and urgency. Many Indigenous groups are seeking ethical ways to design and apply innovative technologies to help address some of their most pressing problems—such as technology that can work with Indigenous knowledge (IK) to solve complex environmental management problems.

As Australia advances its cutting-edge research in ethical AI design and applications, the CSIRO-CDU responsible innovation team will find new pathways to enable Indigenous people to apply their local, intimate experiences of human-environment interactions to use AI and optimise adaptive learning and improve decision-making.

Project Impacts

The collaboration seeks to enhance the role of Indigenous Knowledges in the development of AI, Machine Learning, and predictive modelling systems and applications to detect, prioritise and manage environmental risks on Indigenous Estates.

This postdoctoral fellow strengthens an existing long-term collaborative relationship between CDU and CSIRO and adds to the Northern Australia Research Alliance already established between both parties. This collaboration aims to facilitate and catalyse research programs that enable regional development opportunities for Indigenous people to realise and convert the value of their Indigenous communities and estates into sustainable economic, social, cultural and environmental futures.


CSIRO: Cathy Robinson (Project Leader); CDU: Ruth Wallace; CDU-CSIRO Postdoctoral Fellow: Jennifer Macdonald

Additional information on this collaboration is available as follows:

CSIRO’s media release announcing the university collaborations: https://research.csiro.au/ri/responsible-innovation-initiative-to-ask-australia-what-kind-of-future-we-want-to-create/

CDU’s news article on the Responsible Innovation Initiative: https://www.cdu.edu.au/newsroom/science-innovation

Related Projects

Northern Australian Environmental Research Bininj Mungguy Healthy Country Indicators: https://www.nespnorthern.edu.au/projects/nesp/healthy-country-indicators/

CSIRO News Release on Herding wild buffalo and cattle from space: https://www.csiro.au/en/News/News-releases/2020/Herding-wild-buffalo-and-cattle-from-space

CSIRO News Release AI transforms Kakadu management: https://www.csiro.au/en/News/News-releases/2019/AI-transforms-Kakadu-management