Portrait of Tyson Yunkaporta

Kearney Group funds Indigenous Knowledge Systems Lab start-up.

14 March 2021 Read time: 2 min

Scholar and “Sand Talk” author Tyson Yunkaporta, gets green light to develop an Indigenous Knowledge Systems Lab at Deakin University.


Kearney Group is pleased to announce that the Group’s founder and CEO, Paul Kearney, has provided seed funding to catalyse the development of the Indigenous Knowledge IK Systems Lab at Deakin University’s NIKERI Institute (National Indigenous Knowledges Education and Research Institute).

Dr. Tyson Yunkaporta is driving development of the IK Systems Lab, in collaboration with leading thinkers and innovators from across Deakin and the wider community.

Yunkaporta is an Indigenous scholar and author of the book “Sand Talk: How Indigenous Thinking can Save the World”, which describes the potential applications of Indigenous Knowledges and the process towards resolving some of our world’s most complex crises. Released in late 2019, “Sand Talk” is deeply resonating with international audiences and its concepts are already being applied in a wide range of settings, from climate science to artificial intelligence.


Building on Sand Talk’s success.


Building on the success of “Sand Talk”, the IK Systems Lab aims to attract and support a team of Indigenous researchers, Knowledge Keepers and doctoral candidates whose ambition is to weave First People’s thinking, policy and innovations into solutions for some of the most pressing issues of our time.

“For example, in addressing climate change, should we think beyond limiting emissions and address the biological feedback loops that will continue to escalate global warming even at zero carbon output? Indigenous Knowledge Systems that understand the complexities of these loops may be most effective at proposing the right interventions to disrupt them,” Yunkporta writes.

“Or could we gain an understanding of systems interdependencies – such as fish die-offs in the Murray-Darling Basin leading to bushfires on Kangaroo Island,” he adds.

The IK Systems Lab will be “a place where Indigenous thinking can be applied to the issues that complexity scientists and technologists are currently working on across economics, design, cybernetics, governance, evolutionary dynamics, environment, cognition and consciousness,” Yunkaporta tells us.


IK Systems Lab to tackle complex problems, create opportunities.


“This work is both extremely important and urgent,” says Paul Kearney whose philanthropic support has helped kick-start the Lab’s development.

“In a world overflowing with seemingly intractable problems, Tyson Yunkaporta’s ‘Sand Talk’ and the Indigenous Knowledges he describes gives hope; maybe, just maybe, this thinking and perspective can be a critical circuit-breaker and help interrupt the trajectory on which we humans find ourselves.”

In addition to addressing complex problems and existential threats to humanity, the IK Systems Lab also aims to create opportunities for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Peoples for research, employment, meaningful public platforms, community recognition and to directly benefit from the commercial applications that could arise from their intellectual property developed within the Lab.

“We hope that the establishment of the IK Systems Lab at Deakin becomes a spark,” says Kearney, “a catalyst for connection and the collision of ideas; a hothouse of wisdom and transformational thinking that allows us to tackle the many urgent and interconnected challenges that lay before us now. We are grateful to be able to play our part in its creation, and wish Tyson and his colleagues all the best for their journey ahead.”


Get involved.


Want to support the IK Systems Lab? Wish to ensure “progress” towards a healthier, more sustainable future includes critical Indigenous voices? Contact:

Jonathan Cosgrove
Director, Development Advancement at Deakin University
Tel: +61 3 9244 5862 or email


Speak to the team.