Embracing Indigenous Knowledge
A Pathway to Holistic Clean Energy Development

 As we strive for progress and development, it's crucial to recognise the value of Indigenous knowledge and perspectives. Working with Michel Decosta, Fraser Geary, and Hermione McCollum during the Global Energy Quest reminds us of the richness and depth of traditional wisdom. Today, in the final "pitch' we explore the significance of Indigenous knowledge in modern contexts.

I want to emphasise the contributions of individuals like Nicki Sutherland from EECA and James Harding from Orion, among others.

Understanding the Context

Prof. Deen Sanders shared that the land on which modern cities like Sydney stand was once the domain of Aboriginal peoples. He said the winds that blow through these lands carry stories of richness, benefit, and gift, not suffering. Embracing these narratives means bringing these relationships to the forefront and acknowledging that there are no winners, only opportunities for feedback and shared growth.

The Importance of Process in Indigenous Cultures

For Indigenous people, the way something is done holds immense value. It's not about rushing to an answer but about respecting the process. This concept, often called "way-finding," is a robust framework. Craig Cliff's contributions highlight the importance of this process in bridging the gap between Pākehā and mana whenua, fostering understanding and collaboration.

Data Ownership and Kaitiakitanga

One significant aspect of Indigenous knowledge is the concept of kaitiakitanga or guardianship. Websites like Kā Huru Manu showcases how Ngāi Tahu whānau manage their data. It's not just about seeing the landscape but understanding it deeply. The stories and context behind the data give it meaning, transforming it from mere information to a powerful narrative, as Shanta Parmanan discussed.

Long-Term Vision vs. Short-Term Gains

The Western system often prioritises short-term gains, with KPIs and five-year plans. However, Indigenous knowledge teaches us to think in terms of multiple generations. The Western approach can learn much from the Indigenous perspective, which values long-term sustainability over immediate benefits. This understanding is crucial in bridging the divide between different value systems.

The Power of Braided Rivers

Logan Cane shared his insight into Indigenous knowledge, which likens communities to braided rivers—developing independently yet weaving together. With over 500 First Nations aboriginal tribes nations, the engagement with each community must be respectful and inclusive. Pathways for Māori into various sectors are vital, as they bring invaluable knowledge and perspectives.

Legal and Cultural Integration

Western law often stands at odds with Indigenous lore. However, there are ways to integrate these systems gently and respectfully. The example of the Whanganui River being granted personhood is a testament to this integration. Recognising the rights and responsibilities towards nature is a step towards a more holistic legal framework.

Moving Beyond Heartbreak

Having moved past the heartbreak of exclusion and misunderstanding, we now understand who we are and what we stand for. Our model prevents us from repeating past mistakes. The Whanganui River's recognition as a legal person teaches us that existing models can adapt to include Indigenous perspectives effectively. By appointing board members or trustees to specific parts of an awa, we ensure practical guidance and representation, balanced against the continual demand of mana whenua, proving space for the voice to be locally represented by the true kaitiaki of the region.

Learning from Dr. Deen Saunders' Narratives

Creating narratives for Dr. Deen Saunders was a learning experience. Initially, the narratives felt exclusionary towards Māori, highlighting the need to bridge the divide and include diverse perspectives. Considering seven generations is integral, as it encourages a long-term way of thinking. As we engage the global system in this approach, we inevitably encounter challenges and heartbreak, but it is essential for sustainable progress.


Embracing Indigenous knowledge requires a shift in perspective, valuing process over quick fixes, long-term sustainability over short-term gains, and inclusive narratives over exclusionary practices. As we integrate these lessons, we pave the way for a more holistic and sustainable future, recognising the interconnectedness of all life and the wisdom of those who have stewarded the land for generations.

References: Embedding Indigenous Knowledge in the Conservation and Restoration of Landscapes INSIGHT REPORT JANUARY 2023; Deen Sanders Proud Worimi Man and Integrity Practice Leader, Deloitte, Australia.

"This report is for investors. It has been designed to provide an audience of (non-Indigenous) investors with insights and perspectives from Indigenous peoples. It necessarily offers only an introduction to the richness and complexity of Indigenous people's relationship to nature and the role they can play in maximising our shared interest in nature-based investments in conservation and restoration."

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