We’re working with Traditional Owners of land and sea country to develop tools, knowledge and processes to support a broad spectrum of Indigenous management and co-management activities across Australia.

The challenge

Management of Indigenous lands for multiple benefits

Indigenous Protected Areas (IPAs) make up more than 44% of Australia’s national reserve system and many other parks are jointly managed between governments and Indigenous peoples. IPAs now extend to sea country, and initiatives such as Traditional Use Marine Resource Agreements in the Great Barrier Reef are extending Indigenous co-management roles.

Indigenous peoples have significant responsibilities for environmental outcomes across more than half of the Australian land mass—within IPAs 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:

  • developing guidelines for IPA management plans drawing on diverse experiences across the nation
  • developing culturally-tailored frameworks and guidelines for the Aboriginal-owned parks
  • assessing trends and status in Indigenous land management
  • developing participatory evaluation of governance and management
  • 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.

The Our Country Our Way [pdf · 13.4MB] guidelines bring together multiple innovations drawing on diverse experiences across the nation. These include approaches to support customary institutions, apply visual methods, and negotiate intellectual and cultural rights. The guidelines support more than 70 IPA managers across Australia in developing new and renewing old plans.

The Miriuwung-Gajerrong peoples are managing the first Aboriginal-owned parks in Western Australia together with government partners through a management plan founded on the cultural planning framework and joint planning guidelines [pdf · 5MB] we developed.

Our assessment status and trends has assisted provided the first national snapshot of Indigenous land management, and has since supported policy-relevant analysis of whether government and other investment is targeted to the right locations for improving stewardship. 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.

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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