2020-21 Grant round priorities

Research theme 1: Valuing Indigenous knowledge and methods 

This theme explores the need for systemic change in how the Australian society can better respect and appropriately utilise Indigenous knowledge systems and operating patterns; and thereby inform our understanding of institutions and structures.

Topics under this theme could include:

  • The nature and importance of Indigenous ways of knowing and being – insights and approaches – related to governance, business and community service.
  • The contribution that Indigenous knowledge and intelligence can make to scientific research and to our understanding of the Australian environment.

Research theme 2: Cultural resurgence and resilience

Governments continue to struggle with how to measure cultural indicators of wellbeing and to understand the centrality of cultural strength to the enjoyment and fulfilment of life; yet this link is self-evident for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples.  

Topics under this theme could include:

  • Examining the correlation between cultural strength and individual and community resilience and success, for example in the areas of health, education and employment, as well as engagement with the criminal justice system, and social and political participation.
  • Contemporary expressions of Indigenous identity and how Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander lives might change over time.
  • Capturing innovation and world leading  of best practice programs in cultural revitalisation.

Research theme 3: Indigenous governance and prosperity 

The continued emergence of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples in the governance of their traditional territories provides an opportunity for innovation in regional and local governance; while notions of Indigenous nationhood and relationships with the state continue to challenge our understanding of a reconciled Australia.  

Topics under this theme could include: 

  • The economic, social and cultural benefits that could be derived from effective governance arrangements coupled with ideas around regional autonomy.
  • Realising the potential of Indigenous held land and waters, including models of Indigenous-led development and multi-faceted conceptions of wealth.
  • The potential contribution of treaties or agreements to social fabric and economic security.

Research theme 4: Rethinking engagement with governments

Involving Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people in making decisions affecting their lives and communities is central to real engagement. The challenge remains for governments to better grasp place-based knowledge to inform engagement strategies with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples in order to improve the development of policies and service provision and at the same time understanding when to step out of the way and allow communities to drive local solutions.  

Topics under this theme could include:

  • Examination of best practice co-design principles for Indigenous research and evaluation, government policy-making, and economic and social investment.
  • Examples of community action on complex social issues that in turn builds local capabilities and confidence. 
  • Models of local priority setting and strategic planning leading to investment and creative partnerships. 

Research theme 5: Opportunities provided by technological change

The advances and expansion of technological systems and modes offers challenges to all communities but also invites significant opportunities to be accessed by Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples, businesses and nation groups.  

Topics under this theme could include:

  • The impact of technology, including knowledge management systems, to support the social, cultural and economic aspirations of Indigenous peoples.
  • Expression of design principles for information and communication technology systems that support Indigenous users, including those in remote communities.
  • Innovative use of existing data and archival material to shed light on contemporary issues and ideas, including creative expressions.


Frequently asked questions

We strongly recommend you read the FAQs in combination with the:

What is the Indigenous Research Exchange grant program?

AIATSIS is committed to ensuring greater involvement of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples in setting research priorities, leading research projects and determining the appropriate collection and use of data about communities. The Indigenous Research Exchange (the Exchange) Grant Program will:

  • support high quality impactful Indigenous led research 
  • improve the accessibility and availability of quality robust research and evidence based solutions
  • support organisations (outside of research bodies) to participate in research activities that will have relevance and impact beyond the community and project

What are the 2020-21 Indigenous Research Exchange Grant priorities?

The AIATSIS Indigenous Research Exchange Advisory Board (the Advisory Board) provides strategic guidance to the Grants Program and ensures the outcomes and objectives are achieved. Funding will only be provided to projects that are consistent with the published priorities for the particular year of funding or targeted round.

What is an open round grant opportunity?

Participation in the annual open competitive grant opportunity is available to all eligible organisations wanting to deliver Aboriginal and/or Torres Strait Islander led projects that are aligned with the Exchange program objectives and priorities established by AIATSIS. All applications are given a minimum of two independent assessments and scored against each of the three assessment criteria, with applications then ranked in order of merit.

What is a targeted round grant opportunity?

Participation in the targeted round grant opportunity is a competitive grant opportunity (called ‘Targeted Round’) for eligible organisations who can address a particular identified research need. 

Targeted rounds will be advertised on the AIATSIS website and through other communication channels.

What if my project is impacted by COVID-19?

As the advice received by the Australian Government's Department of Health changes, the Indigenous Research Exchange funding grant rounds and funded projects will continue as planned. Any changes to the grants program as a result of COVID-19 will be posted on the Exchange website

If you have any concerns during the application process or whilst your approved project is being undertaken, please contact the Exchange team to discuss:

If I am applying for funding under an auspicing arrangement do I need a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) with the auspicing organisation?

When applying for Exchange grant funding through an auspicing arrangement both parties should consider developing an MOU that clearly sets out the expectations for both parties. This will alleviate any confusion and will ensure a smooth delivery of the project.

How should I demonstrate evidence of community support?

All projects must be led by and have the support of the Aboriginal and/or Torres Strait peoples to undertake the proposed project. You should consider how Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people can lead, be involved in the governance, planning and delivery of the project, as well as participating in the project. We expect to see evidence of community support, for example through letters from community representatives

If the applicant organisation is a non-Indigenous organisation, letters of support should also outline how the author and/or organisation they represent has been engaged with the planning and will continue to be engaged with over the life of the project.

When your project is assessed, the level of community support for your project will be taken into consideration as well as the scope and scale of the project. If your project will be delivered in multiple communities, you should provide evidence that all participating communities support the project.

Some examples of organisations you might seek support from include:

  • Native Title and Traditional Owner organisations 
  • Elders Councils 
  • Relevant local Aboriginal corporations that work in the area of the project such as Aboriginal Community Controlled Health Organisations, cultural and arts centres, resource agencies, reference groups, research centres
  • Other non-government agencies such as those working with young people, employment, housing, substance abuse, justice issues
  • Local Aboriginal Land Councils 
  • Aboriginal Local government organisations

How will my application be assessed? 

Applications are assessed against criteria outlined in Section 4, in the grant funding guidelines (PDF, 772KB). Applications are rated based on the weighting given to each criterion outlined below. The amount of detail and supporting evidence you provide in your application should be relative to the project size, complexity and grant amount requested.

Take the time to carefully read the program guidelines to ensure your application clearly describes the project, answers the questions, and addresses the selection criteria and program outcomes outlined in the program guidelines. The three assessment criteria are as follows:

  1. Indigenous leadership, governance and collaboration
  2. Project quality
  3. Impact and contribution

Who can I contact for help regarding my SmartyGrants application?

In the first instance you should email the Exchange team or phone (02) 6246 1603 for any advice about the Exchange funding grant program or if you have questions about submitting a grant application.

If your enquiry is a technical IT SmartyGrants system issue that we are unable to assist with, then your issue will be referred to the SmartyGrants help desk for assistance.

How do I submit a grant application?

Applications (including all supporting documentation) must be submitted using SmartyGrants, an online grant management system.

Apply now

When you have submitted your application, you will receive an automated message advising you that we have received your application.

If you do not receive this message please contact the Exchange team as soon as possible.

Can I submit a late application?

Applications, including supporting documentation must be submitted via SmartyGrants on or before the due date. No late applications will be considered. 

How will my application be assessed?

Eligible applications will be considered through an external assessment process. An independent expert panel will assess your application against each of the three assessment criteria. 

Your application will be considered on its merits, based on:

  • how well it meets the criteria 
  • how it compares to other applications 
  • whether it provides value for money. 

When will I know if my application has been successful?

We anticipate notifying all applicants of the outcome of their application by mid December 2020. You will receive an email advising the outcome of your application.  

How can I find out why my application was not successful?

If your application is not successful you will be formally advised and at the same time, you will be invited to seek more detailed feedback.

What happens if only part of our funding request is approved?

It is possible that the AIATSIS CEO, as the delegate, may approve partial funding based on the assessors feedback. If this happens, we will work with your organisation to revise the project objectives, deliverables and budget before finalising your funding agreement.

Does my project have to be approved by the AIATSIS Research Ethics Committee?

All applications supported for funding will require ethical review by the AIATSIS Research Ethics Committee (REC) before the project begins. Release of funds will be dependent on ethical approval.  

2019-20 Grant recipients


Project Title

Project Description

Total Funding

Victoria University Blak Women’s Healing Through storytelling modelling and community arts practice, this project will collect stories from Aboriginal women who are incarcerated or at risk of intervention by the justice system, through the use of cultural practices that enable resilience, connection and identity building. $149,646

The Australian National University

Repatriation, healing and wellbeing: understanding success for repatriation policy and practice

Co-designing and trialling a protocol with the National Museum of Australia to translate findings into repatriation engagement. This will inform the development of key principles in a model for local adaption by other museums and Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander nations, and recommendations for policy and practice nationally and internationally.


Yolngu Nations Assembly Aboriginal Corporation

The Ngarra Rom Project Led by the Yolngu Nations Assembly, this project will document and share the vitality and true meaning of the nation’s traditional legal system. Research and resources will be created to directly influence systems, policy and practice surrounding Aboriginal customary law and its interface with the mainstream Australian legal system. $200,000
Central Queensland Indigenous Development Cultural Resilience for Children in Out of Home Care A community consultation project which Identifies standards and methodology for a best practice cultural strengthening program for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children living in out of home care. $133,900
South West Aboriginal Land and Sea Council Aboriginal Corporation Noongar Governance of Development in the South West Native Title Settlement Working collaboratively this project aims to fill significant research gaps by investigating how Noongar people are innovating regional and local culturally legitimate governance in a post-settlement context. $181,442

Charles Darwin University

Understanding pathways to support Yolngu children and families to achieve string learning in two systems

Building on extensive research, consultations and current work in this community, this project will facilitate effective engagement between Yolngu and Balanda (non-Indigenous), identifying sustainable systems and processes for knowledge exchange.


Kimberley Aboriginal Law and Culture Centre (KALACC)

Following the Trade Routes This project will bring together Elders from WA, NT and SA with knowledge of the trade routes. Audio and visual documentation will record song, story and cultural maintenance to document this long term cultural practice that will benefit emerging Elders and anthropologists into the future. $200,000

Mogo Local Aboriginal Land Council

Environmental Stewardship Resurgence in Walbanga (Yuin Nation) Land and Sea Country

Evidence based research that aims to inform hazard mitigation and disaster management strategies. Mogo and Batemans Bay Local Aboriginal Land Councils will develop a toolkit for Rangers to strengthen their capacity to influence environmental management decisions across Country. This project will provide opportunities for Rangers to restore, reclaim and enact their stewardship practices.


ABC Foundation Ltd

AWRAE: Aboriginal Women’s Research Assistant & Evaluation Training Project This project will enable Aboriginal women to access adequate mentoring and support to learn evaluation skills that will lead to effective appropriate and coordinated community responses with the ambition to grow Indigenous led and owned training courses. $198,200

Noongar Boodjar Language Cultural Aboriginal Corporation

Mapping Boodjar: Walyalup Fremantle Cross-Cultural Mapping

Mapping Boodjar documents and visualises Whadjuk Noongar and non-Aboriginal knowledge and language within an urban landscape to promote culture, embed Whadjuk knowledge into built environment practices, and generate opportunities for community development and transformational learning.


Warmun Art Centre  Resilience through art as education Researching how art was a source of knowledge and focus on health and wellbeing will contribute to create a collections policy, document oral histories and work with youth to create new content for use in research and education. $175,501

Undalup Association

A Model for Integrating Cultural Knowledge Systems and Western Science in the management of Wadandi Boodja (Margaret River), Western Australia This project will develop an interactive cultural map and database which can be utilised as a strategic planning tool that leads to land management plans. $161,350


Knowledge Exchange Platform

A key component for the Indigenous Research Exchange is to make research findings more accessible, more contestable and more useable, especially for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities. To achieve this, the Exchange will include a Knowledge Exchange Platform (the Platform) that will capture research findings from the Exchange Grants Program.

This is an exciting opportunity for AIATSIS and Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples and organisations, to work together to translate research into meaningful, useful and practical information.

The Platform will:

  • Hold information collected from the Indigenous Research Exchange Grant Programs, including outcomes, reports and any data that can be used to show evidence.
  • Hold other sources of data that organisations/individuals have agreed to deposit into the Platform.
  • Hold the data in a way that is usable, appropriately accessible and supports the setting of priorities.
  • Be a powerful resource for community-based leadership and community-led decision making.

The Platform is currently in development, and will be led by Indigenous expertise, and underpinned by protocols for access that uphold principles of Indigenous Data Governance (IDG), Indigenous Data Sovereignty (IDS) and Indigenous Cultural and Intellectual Property (ICIP). It is an evolving platform and will be updated regularly.

It is anticipated that the Knowledge Exchange Platform will also provide links and networks to other data sources and knowledge repositories, including the wide range of information available within AIATSIS.

For further information please contact the Knowledge Exchange Platform team: or T: 02 6261 4260 or 02 6246 4181


Indigenous Research Exchange Grants announced

Monday, 17 August 2020

Minister for Indigenous Australians, the Hon Ken Wyatt AM, MP, has announced funding of around $2 million to twelve recipients, under the Indigenous Research Exchange initiative.

Minister Wyatt said the funding would provide for Indigenous-led projects that are a priority for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities.

“These projects are a positive step toward our Closing the Gap objectives. While acknowledging that a lot more needs to be achieved to overcome disadvantage, we also must celebrate the capacity of Indigenous organisations to undertake innovative projects in their communities. I commend these projects from the Indigenous Research Exchange and look forward to the outcomes,” Minister Wyatt said.

Chief Executive Officer of AIATSIS, Craig Ritchie said the funding would support a wide range of projects, nationally.

“These research grants will see the community deliver a wide range of activities that will improve the availability of quality, robust research and evidence based solutions and will have relevance and impact beyond the community and project.”

The funded projects range from documenting traditional law systems, Aboriginal researchers engaging with local knowledge keepers and building on cultural forms of governance, and collating a collection of stories from Aboriginal women who are incarcerated or at risk.

“AIATSIS looks forward to working with the grant recipients to deliver on these projects. The Indigenous Research Exchange is a partnership with government, and the community.” Mr Ritchie said.

“AIATSIS is pleased to manage the Indigenous Research Exchange and we celebrate the many high quality applications for projects. The strength of Indigenous communities and organisations has been shown through the terrific projects funded through this initial round. The range and depth of the research projects will make a significant contribution to the evidence base for the development of public policies that affect Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples.”

The Indigenous Research Exchange was established to identify and fund research priorities for and with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples and organisations. Round 2 for funding will open in August 2020.

Projects include:

  • South West Aboriginal Land and Sea Council: Noongar Governance of Development in the South West Native Title Settlement.. This project develops knowledge about Noongar cultural forms of governance of development and aims to co-design a culturally legitimate model of Noongar governance for the implementation of the Settlement, to support a Noongar-determined development agenda.
  • The ABC Foundation’s Aboriginal Women’s Research Assistant and Evaluation Training Project.  This project is a social enterprise assisting Indigenous women in remote communities (pilot: Carnarvon and Derby/Broome) to be on-country evaluators. The culturally secure venture-led by Clear Horizon with NintiOne - includes mentoring and employment. AWARE aims for a national footprint.
  • Mogo Local Aboriginal Land Council’s Environmental Stewardship Resurgence in Walbanga (Yuin Nation) Land and Sea Country. This collaborative action-research initiative aims at developing a toolkit for Mogo and Batemans Bay Aboriginal Land Council's rangers to increase their surveying and analysis skills to grow their influence environmental management decisions across their Country.

Read the Minster's announcement or find out more about the Indigenous Research Exchange.

Media enquiries or 0476 843 522.

National Native Title Conference 2020 cancelled

Thursday, 30 July 2020

The Australian Institute of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Studies (AIATSIS) has made the decision to cancel the National Native Title Conference 2020 (NTC20), as a result of the changing and widespread impacts of COVID-19.

This decision was not taken lightly and was reached in partnership with our co-convenors, NTSCORP and the Minjungbal Bundjalung traditional owners to ensure the health and wellbeing of all delegates, the local community and Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples and communities across Australia.

We continue to value opportunities for exchange and learning and are looking at innovative ways to create connections, share views and facilitate the evolution of the native title sector. 

We intend to convene the conference in its full format in future when it is safe to do so and thank you for your ongoing support and understanding during this time.


The NTC20 online event co-ordinator, InHouse Event Solutions will be emailing those who have registered and booked accommodation via the NTC20 Registration and Accommodation website.

Registration fees will be fully refunded for those who have paid to attend the conference.


For those who made accommodation bookings via the NTC20 Registration and Accommodation website, InHouse Event Solutions will manage cancellations.

On your behalf, InHouse Event will cancel your accommodation bookings and arrange refunds. You do not need to contact the hotel.

If you booked accommodation directly with a hotel or via a third party website (outside of the NTC20 Registration site), we advise you to cancel the accommodation booking immediately.

Urgent enquiries about registration and accommodation, please email

Sponsored Delegates and Conference Papers

For those who have submitted a sponsored delegate application or submitted a conference paper, AIATSIS will be in touch shortly to explore options to present papers in alternative forums.

For urgent enquiries about sponsored delegate applications or conference papers, please email

Media enquiries or 0476 843 522.

Corporations (Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander) Act 2006 (CATSI Act) Review – Phase 1

Feb, 2020
Product type: 

In this submission, AIATSIS addresses the scope of the 2020 CATSI Act Review. As the number of Registered Native Title Bodies Corporate (RNTBC) continues to grow, the proposed review is a timely opportunity to address some of the outstanding issues surrounding RNTBCs and their obligations under the Native Title Act as well as the need for greater autonomy and self-government in the future. This submission contains a number of recommendations for addressing these issues, focusing particularly on revising the corporate model requirement for native title groups, and the creation of a separate division of the CATSI Act for native title corporations.

AIATSIS Submission - Independent review of the EPBC Act 1999

AIATSIS Submission - Independent review of the EPBC Act 1999
Apr, 2020
Product type: 

In this submission AIATSIS provides the following key recommendations:

  • Indigenous held lands are fundamental to the achievement of Australia’s Aichi Biodiversity Targets under the International Convention on Biological Diversity. This contribution can be positively magnified by addressing the issue of clear rights and responsibilities under the EPBC Act.
  • Indigenous communities are very effective in identifying threatened species planning for large scale fire and water management and have been proactive in establishing and implementing country management plans. This planning process should be foregrounded in the review of the EPBC Act’s aims.
  • Indigenous engagement on country can create key opportunities to protect Australia’s biodiversity and species threatened by international trade (especially for species listed under the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES)). These contributions should be recognised through a review of the legislation.
  • Environmental regulation is too narrowly focused on compliance, and fall short of achieving conservation targets without the capacity to support active land management. The operation of the act should be reviewed to include land management.