Developing the Desert Knowledge Precinct
DKA manages the Desert Knowledge Precinct. The Precinct has been home to many organisations since its establishment in 2003, including:
- Batchelor Institute
- Central Desert Native Title Services
- Centre for Appropriate Technology
- Cooperative Research Centre for Remote Economic Participation
- Desert Knowledge Australia
- Desert Knowledge Cooperative Research Centre
- Ninti One
- Regional Arts Australia
- Territory Natural Resource Management.
It has a number of significant sites and activities, including:
- the Stolen Generations Garden of Reflection
- Batchelor Arts Centre
- DKA Solar Centre, which generates data on different solar technologies and power for the Precinct.
The Precinct’s development is covered by an Indigenous Land Use Agreement signed in 2006.
As well as supporting the Precinct’s capacities in teaching, learning and technology development through its core members, DKA is encouraging the concept of the Precinct as ‘hub’ for activities such as solar power and remote area power supplies, and good land management practice.
For example, taking advantage of the part of the Precinct that can’t be further developed because of a creek that runs through it, DKA is partnering with natural resource management organisations and others to establish the area as an example of best practice in land management. This includes controlling invasive grasses and animals, and encouraging native species. DKA is working in partnership with Territory Natural Resource Management, the Desert Park, other Precinct members, the Town Council and the Arid Lands Environment Centre to develop a multi-layered approach to the Precinct’s land management, from buffel grass control to re-introducing the endangered Slater’s Skink, which was first discovered on what is now Precinct land around 50 years ago.
Other areas for Precinct development under consideration include the Energy Hub (see below), and promoting the Precinct’s variety – such as a solar centre, Indigenous art, appropriate technology, a sensitively managed environment - to create a visitor experience for tourism and educational purposes, again in partnership with all the Precinct members and its neighbours, such as GeoScience Australia.
An Energy Hub
Energy supply underpins economic and social development in desert Australia, as it does everywhere else, but the conditions of affordable and reliable supply vary hugely in remote areas. Building on the existing experience in Alice Springs in developing and delivering remote area power supplies, particularly solar energy, DKA is coordinating an ‘Energy Hub’ that will support remote development.
The Hub will be a focal point for the many interests and industries involved in power supply, and it will create, consolidate and share technical and policy knowledge with the aim of making power supplies more accessible, efficient and affordable both nationally and internationally.
Components of the Hub include the existing DKA Solar Centre, which is generating data and power from its test installations, a proposed second Alice Solar City program focusing on solar integration into the electricity grid, and Centres of Excellence that consolidate research and development in specific subjects such as solar power and isolated power supplies.
Towards building the Hub, DKA developed and circulated a discussion paper in 2016 to a broad range of stakeholders, including industrial, government, academic and community interests, generating widespread interest in the proposal for a Centre of Excellence for Isolated Power Systems. DKA is now, in the second half of 2016, shaping a business case for the Centre, while also supporting the development of a second Alice Solar City program.
Intercultural Development and Collective Engagement
Since 2010, DKA has been involved in developing programs and approaches that are focused on enhancing relationships with government, community leadership and collaboration to address the challenges of remote Australia. Many of the programs have had a significant intercultural aspect or sought a collective approach to solving complex problems, such as impediments to early childhood development in a remote town such as Alice Springs.
In 2016-17 DKA’s contribution to understanding issues of intercultural and collective engagement in desert Australia include:
- Intercultural leadership skills for Indigenous Rangers, funded by the Department of Prime Minister and Cabinet. Ranger groups from the NT and WA are participating in a program that identifies leadership skills chosen by the rangers themselves as necessary for improving their abilities to work across two cultures. The program includes planning workshops, ranger group exchanges and skills practice.
- A ‘Code for Life’ approach for Aboriginal men to increase their capacity for responsibility through understanding more deeply the value of codes, or rules, of the cultures and communities that they belong to, in both Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal contexts. This project is supported by the Office of Aboriginal Affairs as a pilot program testing the approach and its potential impact.
- Outlining an accessible framework or toolbox for intercultural practice that can be used in remote Australia. It will be based on evaluations of projects such as the two listed above, as well as DKA’s experience, research of current programs being run by Commonwealth and other State/Territory organisations, and projects under negotiation with the Department of Local Government.
Desert Knowledge Foundation
The Foundation adds to DKA’s capacity to collaborate with private sector interests on large projects due to the Foundation’s DGR or charitable status. Where programs have a research and development focus that benefits development in desert Australia, the Foundation may provide tax advantages for eligible organisations.
The Foundation has a Research Committee that oversees project proposals on a scientific basis, and it is instrumental in ensuring the quality and collaborations needed to make DKA’s investments in programs such as the Energy Hub effective and influential.