The Indigenous Knowledge Systems Lab
The Indigenous Knowledge Systems Lab at Deakin University utilises unique organisational processes and methods of inquiry grounded in Indigenous protocols. Continuity of traditional knowledge and practice in the lab requires a deep-time perspective of complex systems both local and non-local, ensuring that ancient psycho-technologies are retrieved forward for context-dependent, collectively responsive thought leadership and projects stewarding relational systems increase during phase shifts anticipated from future inflection points.
This work requires abductive reasoning, the eradication of discrete discipline boundaries, continuous adaptive responsiveness, distributed authority, agentic dyads of individual and group sovereignties, kinship protocols for solitary/pair/group/multi-group activity, traditional embassy protocols for dialogue between diverse systems, and Lore-based principles translated into propositions that can inform innovative systems functions and theory.
The Indigenous Knowledge Systems Lab resembles a think tank, although we’re operating on protocols from the huge multi-tribal gatherings that occur in the Bunya Mountains on Wakka Wakka Country to the east of the Bunyas and Barrungam to the west every three years, as they have done forever. Wanjau is a more accurate term than think tank – it roughly translates as ‘collective sense-making’ within embassy protocols that allow team members to self-regulate within a framework of Aboriginal Law. This is a continuous process collectively updated as contexts and relationships expand and shift.
While each team member is connected to different sacred sites of increase in the land, we agree on common Lore of Mimburi which we refer to in English as flows, sites of increase (not growth, which is different) where energy, for want of a better English word, flows from a world of spirit into our physical reality. The collective sense making process, the Wanjau, is bound up ritually with that regenerative process. Our shorthand for how we work with this in our think tank activity has become ‘the flows and the weaves’ and our research agenda and activities are formed from this process, nested within a field of sentient landscapes and non-human agents. We are committed to community transparency, so our research translation / science communication interface with the public through accessible media is continuous, from project ideation to post-publication. This ensures we have continuous flows of benefit to and from community from think tank activity, which constitutes non-coercive, multi-polar thought leadership.
A think tank is an organisation that provides intellectual justification for the activities of those funding it, so ‘tank’ is certainly not the right word – we’re not collecting the water of our collective knowledge in some closed system, but rather letting it snake its way across landscapes of signals and narrative paths of meaning, then following it to see where it goes, eventually deciding collectively on appropriate leverage points to maximise the relational health of the system.
Our emergent organisational structures are based on kinship relations of us-two pairs, us-only small groups and us-all teams, expanding to external embassy with partner organisations and ongoing navigation of the administrative structures of the academic institution that is hosting our activities within a broader system of imperial relations and extractive economies. Our goal initially is to embed this Indigenous governance and inquiry system in parasitic relation to the host institution (Deakin University), and co-evolve together towards more symbiotic relations internally and externally, with the long-term goal of a systems-wide phase transition.