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The challenge

Management of Indigenous lands and seas for multiple benefits

Indigenous peoples have significant responsibilities for environmental outcomes across more than half of the Australian land mass—across the Great Barrier Reef, within Indigenous Protected Areas and joint managed parks, through Indigenous Land Use Agreements, in areas where native title has been recognised, and in other areas granted or purchased through government and community initiatives.

Management activities in these areas need to counter threats from invasive species, introduced pests, climate change, over-harvesting, inappropriate fire regimes, habitat loss and fragmentation, pollution and other drivers of environmental change.

However, many communities responsible for managing responses to these changes are challenged by socio-economic disadvantage, remoteness, poor access to resources and technological capability. Ensuring adaptive management activities deliver economic, social and cultural benefits is a key priority.

Our response

Indigenous-driven innovations and participatory tools for adaptive management

Together with Indigenous land managers and their partners, we are collaboratively building innovations, tools and knowledge, testing and evaluating participatory processes, and creating resources.

Our work includes:

  • innovative projection-augment 3D map built together with Kimberley Traditional Owners
  • participatory social network mapping
  • assessing trends in Indigenous land management and links to economic development
  • developing participatory evaluation and monitoring with Traditional Owners
  • developing protocols for partnerships with Indigenous knowledge of fire management.

The results

Implementation of innovative planning and participatory tools

Our work has been used by Indigenous managers and their partners across the country.

In the Fitzroy River Catchment, Traditional Owner adults and children from eight different language groups came together to build a huge 3-D model of the catchment, and project different GIS data onto it. We’ve used it to show and discuss where important places are, and what’s happening where. We’ve explored ideas about water flow, water rights, the importance of flood and fire, and the various types of development that exist along the river.

We’ve supported Traditional Owners to clearly articulate their priorities in the Reef 2050 Plan, and develop an innovative network approach for engagement and monitoring with the Strong Peoples – Strong Country framework and indicators

Our assessment provided the first national snapshot of Indigenous land management, and supported policy-relevant analysis of whether government and other investment is targeted to the right locations for improving stewardship and for “closing the gap” in socio-economic status between Indigenous and non-Indigenous Australians. Cultural and conservation economies are now a key policy driver across Indigenous land and sea managers.

Fire partnerships between government and other lands managers with Indigenous peoples are increasing, and now have access to evidence-based guidance through our collaboratively developed protocols [pdf · 4mb].

In the Wet Tropics region, the Wet Tropics Management Authority, Terrain NRM and Rainforest Aboriginal Peoples are currently negotiating for improvements to their partnerships, guided by our participatory evaluation of co-governance. Our comparative analysis of co-management arrangements between Laponia is Sweden and Australia and the Wet Tropics World Heritage Areas is generating new options for both groups in their ongoing pathways of change.

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