Healthy Country AI

Empowering Indigenous led approaches to use AI and digital technology for healthy country 

Nailsma Binoculars Ranger Mono

A new, $2.6 Million, Indigenous-led program which aims to mobilise the latest digital technology for land and sea managers working in remote regions of northern Australia. This initiative enables local Indigenous rangers to work with scientists and technology specialists to learn and use new inclusive AI and digital skills to monitor the health of their country.

With a focus on digital inclusion, the collaboration will see Indigenous rangers, tech companies and national research organisations working together to co-design a digital skills training program that will deliver environmental, cultural, and economic benefits for local Indigenous communities and land management.

NAILSMA CEO, Ricky Archer, says this initiative will advance the important data collection and work Indigenous rangers are already doing.

“The advancement of digital technology can help transform the way Indigenous land managers look after Country. But we do not want these new technologies to replace people’s connection to Country, the best way to look after country is to be out on country. We need new technologies to support and add value to this concept rather than replacing it.”

RICKY ARCHER (NAILSMA CEO

The challenge 

Indigenous people have nurtured the world's ecosystems for thousands of years. In recent history, our natural systems have been impacted by new threatening processes, such as feral animals and weeds, that have spread out across the vast remote areas of Australia bringing new challenges to traditional custodians.  At the same time, technology has been developing rapidly across the globe offering potential solutions to some of the new land management challenges.   

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The scale of the erosion. 3D render of significant active erosion gully on Normanby station, QLD, caused by historical over grazing by cattle.

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Feral pigs destroy wetlands across Australia.

With such rapid changes, it is hard to keep up with the pace of change and technology is often developed in cities and in very different environmental and cultural settings. NAILSMA has supported the development of Traditional Owner led approaches to land and sea management for over 20 years.   This has included the use of technology (e.g I-Tracker) to empower Indigenous rangers to develop their own data collection and management systems.  This foundational work kickstarted digital inclusion for Indigenous rangers in Northern Australia and supported the collection and management of high-quality data (with robust ICIP frameworks) in a time when computers and technology were rarely used in the region. 

Since that time, technology has rapidly developed and the next generation of devices, analytical approaches (such as Artificial Intelligence) and data management methods (such as cloud services) have emerged with many ranger programs shifting to mobile devices and remote management of data.  However, the rapidness of change has left many groups behind requiring a trusted partner to support the new transition.   

Nailsma Drone Operator Mono

Our approach  

The North Australian Indigenous Land and Sea Management Alliance (NAILSMA) and CSIRO, in collaboration with The Telstra FoundationMicrosoftthe Australian Government's National Environmental Science Program (NESP) Resilient Landscapes Hub and the Women in STEM and Entrepreneurship program, will work together to enable local Indigenous organisations including, Aak Puul Ngantam, Normanby Land Management, and Kalan Enterprises, to work with scientists and technology specialists to learn about and use new inclusive AI and digital skills to monitor the health of their country.  

With a focus on digital inclusion, the partners will work together to co-design a digital skills training program that will deliver environmental, cultural and economic benefits for local Indigenous communities and land management.

“This collaboration will enable Indigenous rangers to drive and develop AI and digital support tools to support evidence-based decisions on their Country and also provide critical digital skills for future work on Country,” 

DR CATHY ROBINSON (CSIRO

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Photo (L - R): On country with Normanby Land Management and analysing data with Bininj in Kakadu.

Microsoft AI for Earth view the fill video here.

Our progress 

We have been working with our foundational partners, on their country and through digital communication tools, to start building out the technology platforms that are suitable for monitoring important values on country and converting the workflows into training modules. 

At the same time we have been working with our on-ground partners to align the training and technology development program with their work programs.  

This work builds upon the expanding Healthy Country AI program which includes collaborative work done with Bininj (Traditional Owners) from Kakadu National Park tackling wetland weeds, Wik Traditional Owners and rangers working with Aak Puul Ngantam on the West Coast of Cape York Peninsula managing threats to turtles and Normanby Land Management who are reducing sediment flows to the great barrier reef.  This program will work with our partners to develop operational monitoring programs through deep collaboration in the development of technology and the training programs that underpin their use.   

“Kalan Enterprises has committed to embedding new approaches to monitoring and reporting into our day-to-day operations. This training program is important to ensure that our people are doing all elements of this work from land management activities to managing data and reporting”.    

DION CREEK (KALAN ENTERPRISES)

Kalan Enterprises is one of the local groups who have committed to embedding the training to into their day-to-day operations.

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Kalan monitoring pig impacts on wetlands


The Telstra Foundation, in collaboration with Microsoft and the Women in STEM and Entrepreneurship program, are proud to support this training initiative.

Jackie Coates, Head of Telstra Foundation, noted that Australia’s First Nations people have been successfully innovating for tens of thousands of years to create environmental, wellbeing and cultural outcomes. 

“This partnership is about working together to enhance digital skills so that more First Nations communities can use digital technologies in their caring-for-Country activities, in line with the wisdom of traditional Indigenous knowledge systems,” 

JACKIE COATES (TELSTRA FOUNDATION)

Tianji Dickens, Philanthropies Lead at Microsoft, agrees and notes how such partnerships also provide important support networking opportunities for Indigenous women and men rangers who are caring for Country across Australia. 

“This program shows how an Indigenous-led and collaborative approach to building and using digital technology can create real-world impact for Indigenous people,

TIANJI DICKENS (MICROSOFT)

Kelsey Collars

Kelsey Harrigan recording data for tracking cattle on her traditional country at Normanby Station

For more information

View the full media release below. Please direct all media enquires to media@nailsma.org.au or call 0488 068 738.


Healthy Country AI Media Release

Posted: 27/09/2021

$2.6 million dollar boost to support Indigenous rangers use of digital tools across northern Australia

Empowering Indigenous led approaches to use AI and digital technology for healthy Country