ATSE Awards

Traditional Knowledge Innovation Award

230320 Trad Know Inno Award

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ATSE is proud to announce Challenger Group Limited celebrates STEM research and development by Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples or communities which is based on, or significantly incorporates or builds on, Traditional Knowledge.


The ATSE Traditional Knowledge Innovation Award celebrates STEM research and development by Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples or communities which is based on, or significantly incorporates or builds on, Traditional Knowledge. The Award acknowledges and recognises an individual, team, community, or organisation respectfully and successfully applying Australian Traditional Knowledge in contemporary innovation contexts.

The winning nominee will receive a cash prize and medal.

The award criteria are:

  • Traditional Knowledge and Indigenous Innovation: The nominee demonstrates achievement of excellence or impact in any STEM field by incorporating,
    applying or innovating Traditional Knowledge to address a contemporary issue, problem or challenge. This may include (but is not limited to) academic research, applied research or practice.
  • Application of the Traditional Knowledge Innovation: The work or innovation of the nominee has achieved or has a clearly articulated a likely path to achieve, success in translation from Traditional Knowledge (knowing) to contemporary practical application (being, doing) within a STEM setting. Contemporary practical application may, but does not have to, include pathways to commercialisation. The work or innovation of the nominee has potential to improve or has improved understanding and awareness of Traditional Knowledge and its modern value.
  • Ways of working: The nominee builds meaningful, trusting, respectful and equitable relationships, through the process of sharing and weaving Traditional Knowledge with modern knowledge practices. The work or innovation of the nominee has positive impact and actual or anticipated benefit for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples and/or communities. This may include, but is not limited to, intellectual property ownership, royalties/commissions/other payments, community health and wealth-building, improved opportunities for educational and career advancement.

>Past winners of this Award

NOMINATIONS
Please review the guidelines below for more information.


Past winners

An Aboriginal man with a white beard on the left stands next to a white man on the right, both are wearing hats.
2023 winners

John Watson & Prof Ron Quinn AM FTSE

In 1986, John Watson’s finger was bitten off by a crocodile. A Nyikina Mangala man from the Jarlmadangah Burru Aboriginal Community of the Kimberley, John turned to the bark of the Mudjala mangrove tree seeking pain relief. He chewed on a strip of bark and applied it as a dressing to his wound.

When Professor Ron Quinn from Griffith University heard of John’s ordeal, and his use of the Mudjala bark, he was intrigued. An enduring partnership eventuated between the Nyikina Mangala people and Griffith University under the leadership of John and Ron, seeking to identify what active compounds could be present in the bark. 

Combining thousands of years of Traditional Knowledge with western science has revealed a novel, natural remedy for the treatment of severe pain. The bark contains two classes of compound: one is effective for inflammatory pain and the other mitigates sciatic nerve injury. The resulting product – a possible topical gel – will be based on the complex mixtures present within the bark paste. John and Ron hope that this gel could be supplied to athletes at the 2032 Brisbane Olympics.  

The project is powerful not only for its outcomes, but also its approach in retaining traditional ownership and respect for the integrity of traditional knowledge. 


ATSE Reconciliation Action Plan artwork

Reconciliation Action Plan

ATSE’s vision for reconciliation is that all Australians recognise and value Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander custodianship as one of the oldest knowledge systems on the planet. Through respectfully working with, listening and learning from current Traditional Knowledge holders and practitioners in science and engineering we will build a better nation and a healthier, more sustainable world.

The ATSE Traditional Knowledge Innovation Award is one award per year that acknowledges and recognises up to two teams or individuals respectfully, collaboratively and successfully applying Traditional Knowledge through modern innovation.  The Award celebrates STEM research and development done by Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples or communities (either solo or in partnership), which incorporates or builds on Traditional Knowledge.

The ATSE Awards celebrate the outstanding achievement of Australians in technology, engineering and innovation. They are open now, and anybody is entitled to nominate a candidate.

Read ATSE’s Reconciliation Action Plan