Three-Category Approach Workbook

Embedding Indigenous knowledge systems in urban research and practice is an important way to improve cities for people and for biodiversity. But cross-cultural work and two-way sharing in an urban context is new to many of us, and often complex to deliver.

To overcome these barriers, the Three-Category Approach and Workbook has been created by Indigenous researchers, communicators and designers. It aims to guide non-Indigenous researchers and practitioners in their work, helping support Indigenous led projects and make space for co-design.

The new Three-Category  Approach Workbook discusses Indigenous engagement in research in three categories: communicate, collaborate and codesign. Users are guided through each category, given suggested actions to take and prompted to reflect on their work and research approach.

The stories in the Three-Category Approach Workbook are taken from interviews with researchers associated with the CAUL Hub. The Three-Category Approach was incorporated into the Hub's research in 2016 - in recognition of the critical role Indigenous perspectives play in making cities better. It is expected that all research projects within the Hub are assessed using the Three-Category Approach, leading to increased communication, collaboration and co-design with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people and organisations. The stories in the Three-Category Approach Workbook shine a light on the challenges, opportunities and lessons learnt from participating in Indigenous-led research and two-way sharing.

Some projects benefit more than others from Indigenous perspectives. Understanding where your project sits can help guide your process.


Join us for an afternoon of sharing, learning and co-design with a small group of attendees from a mix of sectors and disciplines, with a shared passion for making cities better for people and biodiversity.

You will be introduced to Three-Category Approach Toolkit and each category of the three-stepped approach: communicate, collaborate and co-design. You’ll learn how to implement the category relevant to your project and measure and reflect on the results.

Upcoming workshops

To express your interest in future  workshops, please email:

For more information about the Three-Category Approach, see this info sheet

Category 3

Category 3 projects communicate and share results with relevant Indigenous organisations. All research that
is undertaken, irrespective of its nature, will have impact on Indigenous Australians. Category 3 projects are
often laboratory or desktop based and do not directly work with or benefit from Indigenous knowledge.
Category 3 projects communicate outcomes.

Category 2

Category 2 projects explore opportunities for two-way transfer of skills and knowledge sharing through
Indigenous employment and research opportunities. Category 2 projects often take place on Country, for
example research that has a field work component.
Category 2 projects collaborate on the work + communicate the outcomes.

Category 1

Category 1 projects are co-designed with Indigenous people, organisations and communities. They respect
Indigenous priorities and values and ensure Indigenous people have meaningful participation in the
governance of the project. These projects work towards an application of Caring for Country in an urban
context to offer ways of interacting with nature for economic, s ocial and cultural prosperity.
Category 1 projects co-design the plan + collaborate on the work + communicate the outcomes.


The Three-Category Approach presented in the workbook is based on a framework developed by members of the Indigenous Advisory Committee of the Commonwealth Department of Environment and Energy. We thank them and in particular acknowledge the contributions of Stan Lui, Melissa George and Leah Talbot.

We also acknowledge The Clean Air and Urban Landscapes (CAUL) Hub’s Indigenous Advisory Group, under the leadership of Stan Lui, Timmah Ball, Maddison Miller, Lauren Arabena and Jason Barrow, for supporting and developing the Three-Category Approach within the CAUL Hub, and guiding the creation of this workbook.

This workbook has been produced by Jirra Lulla Harvey for Kalinya Communications, based on research conducted by Jirra in 2018, with guidance from Cathy Oke and Libby Porter. Illustrations by Dixon Patten of Bayila Creative. Photos by Cristina Ramalho.

Funding has been provided by the Australian Government’s National Environmental Science Program, RMIT University and the University of Melbourne.