Facilitating sustainable disaster risk reduction in indigenous communities: Reviving indigenous worldviews, knowledge and practices through two-way partnering

Tahir Ali, Petra Buergelt, Douglas Paton, James A Smith, Lawurrpa Elaine Maypilama, Yuŋgirrŋa Dorothy Bukulatjpi, Stephen Dhamarrandji, Rosemary Gundjarranbuy

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

11 Citations (Scopus)
124 Downloads (Pure)


The Sendai Framework of Action 2015–2030 calls for holistic Indigenous disaster risk reduction (DRR) research. Responding to this call, we synergized a holistic philosophical framework (comprising ecological systems theory, symbolic interactionism, and intersectionality) and social constructionist grounded theory and ethnography within a critical Indigenous research paradigm as a methodology for exploring how diverse individual and contextual factors influence DRR in a remote Indigenous community called Galiwinku, in the Northern Territory of Australia. Working together, Indigenous and non-Indigenous researchers collected stories in local languages using conversations
and yarning circles with 20 community members, as well as participant observations. The stories were interpreted and analysed using social constructivist grounded theory analysis techniques. The findings were dialogued with over 50 community members. The findings deeply resonated with the community members, validating the trustworthiness and relevance of the findings. The grounded theory that emerged identified two themes. First, local Indigenous knowledge and practices strengthen Indigenous people and reduce the risks posed by natural hazards. More specifically, deep reciprocal relationships with country and ecological knowledge, strong kinship relations,
Elder’s wisdom and authority, women and men sharing power, and faith in a supreme power/God and Indigenous-led community organizations enable DRR. Second, colonizing practices weaken Indigenous people and increase the risks from natural hazards. Therefore, colonization, the imposition of Western culture, the government application of top-down approaches, infiltration in Indigenous governance systems, the use of fly-in/fly-out workers, scarcity of employment, restrictions on technical and higher education opportunities, and overcrowded housing that is culturally and climatically unsuitable undermine the DRR capability. Based on the findings, we propose Community-Based DRR theory which proposes that facilitating sustainable Indigenous DRR in Australian Indigenous communities requires Indigenous and non-Indigenous partners to genuinely work together in two-directional and complementary ways.
Original languageEnglish
Article number855
Pages (from-to)1-28
Number of pages28
JournalInternational Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - 1 Feb 2021


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