Indigenous Engagement


A young girl, accompanied by her mother and brothers, fishes for prawns along the Mairwar (Brisbane River).

As they navigate the waterway, her mother points out ancient Aboriginal shellfish middens along tidal reaches of the river, built up over centuries by their ancestors.

Later, the girl’s mother will register the sites she identified for their protection, ensuring that future generations can benefit from the knowledge and history found on Country.

The girl, now a mother of five herself, is Yuggera woman Madonna Thomson, a Traditional Owner of Yerrol (Northshore Brisbane) and grandniece of the late Senator Neville Bonner.

Now Director of Nyanda Cultural Tours and Jagera Daran, an Aboriginal and Cultural Heritage consultancy, Ms Thomson is a passionate advocate for developing and sharing traditional knowledge and history.

Northshore Brisbane Precinct Manager Vanessa Altun connected with Ms Thomson in 2020 to engage with the Traditional Owners of the land and waters of the precinct to ensure important First Nations representation as the area developed.

A simple introductory yarn while exploring the Nyandah (waterholes) at Nudgee, has led to the development of a Northshore Brisbane Traditional Owner Engagement Protocol and Northshore Brisbane First Nations Participation Plan.

These important initiatives were established to assist the team at Economic Development Queensland (EDQ) and Northshore Brisbane to deepen cultural connections as the precinct takes shape.



Ms Altun said increasing cultural capability at Northshore Brisbane was a priority.

“The Traditional Owner Engagement Protocol offers a practical pathway for EDQ to realise the vision of Northshore Brisbane as a community that celebrates its First Nations history,” Ms Altun said.

“From the beginning of the process between EDQ and the Traditional Owners, we established a framework that was built on trust, relationships, and mutual understanding.

“Working together, we have identified many opportunities for First Nations representation, economic development and cultural engagement in the precinct.”

The Protocol serves as a guide to ensure that EDQ staff meaningfully engage with Traditional Owners, establishing principles around the best processes for listening, learning, developing relationships and helping Traditional Owner families build capacity throughout the precinct’s development.

It also helps the team understand who the distinct Traditional Owner families are and highlights why the specific designs, patterns and language of the Traditional Owner group are prioritised and embedded within the precinct.

“The introduction of the Protocol is helping enrich the understanding within EDQ and the Northshore Brisbane team around the ‘why’ they are engaging with Traditional Owners,” Ms Thomson said.

“It is important not to look at First Nations people as just one homogenous group but rather seek to understand the specific and important knowledge held by Traditional Owner families who hold deep knowledge of the land you are living and working on.”

Empowering First Nations businesses to retain and share their unique stories can bring long-term benefits to the precinct.

Opportunities for knowledge-sharing will open up in areas such as traditional ecological management and recommendations of native plant species, as well as the sharing of language and creative culture.

“Bringing traditional foods and medicinal plants back on Country where they were before can provide a great learning space to share with our families and the community,” Ms Thomson said.

“I’m looking forward to seeing members of the Turrbal/Yuggera community build capacity as they develop businesses, embed their perspectives, their language and their knowledge into this space.”


For new developments and precincts seeking to engage with the area’s Traditional Owners, Ms Altun recommends starting with a yarn.

“Start with a conversation about who you are. Not from an organisational or LinkedIn perspective. Who are you as a person, where are you from, where is your family from? Find common ground and connection first, then the professional relationship will develop later.”

Ms Thomson recommends reaching out to the Traditional Owners from the local area to begin developing a relationship with the families.

“Traditional Owner families can bring much greater depth to the placemaking process, with our historical knowledge strengthening the connection people will feel to the location,” Ms Thomson said.

“EDQ is providing the opportunity for us to demonstrate what it looks like when you’re engaging First Nations community with opportunities in traditional economies.

“Look at what others are doing and what is working. See what is engaging people but ensure you are creating an engagement plan appropriate to your location as one size doesn’t fit all.”

First Nations businesses ready to embrace opportunities and enhance the cultural landscape at Northshore Brisbane are encouraged to contact the EDQ team.

Here are some ways you can let us know about your business and find out how to become an EDQ supplier.


Email: [email protected] for more information about the Queensland Indigenous Procurement Policy or Indigenous business support.

Register to QTender: to receive new tender submission opportunity alerts.

Register with Supply Nation: – the Australian government-endorsed Indigenous business directory.

Fill in your details below to download a copy of the Northshore Brisbane’s Traditional Owner Engagement Protocol.  Note: the Northshore Brisbane First Nations Participation Plan is only available on request.