Ensuring Indigenous knowledge is applied in planning and management is key as Indigenous roles in the management of protected areas increases here and globally.

The challenge

Linking Indigenous knowledge and science to management of protected areas

Globally, and in Australia, the recognition of Indigenous roles in protected areas has increased exponentially, but there are key gaps in the way Indigenous knowledge is applied in planning and management.

a group of people standing against a blue sky on a granite boulder with person pointing to the distance

Joint Management is a term used to describe a formal partnership arrangement between the Traditional Owners of land and the State, where both share their knowledge to manage specific national parks and other protected areas.

In Victoria, Recognition and Settlement Agreements (under a special legislation for recognising native title in Victoria) required a range of new Joint Managed Parks. One of those Agreements included the Dja Dja Wurrung People and their Country in Central Victoria.

Native Title agreements in other states in Australia are also resulting in many joint managed protected areas.

Our response

Introducing an opportunities focus to Indigenous park management

We led a consortium including the Dja Dja Wurrung Clans Aboriginal Corporation, their enterprises arm Djandak, and consultancy Conservation Management, to facilitate development of the Joint Management Plan for six parks and reserves in central Victoria. We also worked closely with staff in Parks Victoria and the Department of Environment, Land, Water and Planning.

The goal of the Joint Management Plan was to enable Traditional Owner knowledge and connection to Country to be expressed in the planning and management of the six Dja Dja Wurrung parks.

We used innovative participatory tools and methods to bring together the Dja Dja Wurrung People's Indigenous knowledge with western scientific approaches to land management.

We brought together three different types of planning approaches - Healthy Country Planning, Public Choice Regulatory Planning and Spatial Planning.

Innovations included the use of interactive spatial data table-top projections for our mapping, and new models of habitat suitability and threat prioritisation. We brought an "opportunities" focus into the traditional "threat focus" of planning.

The results

A new benchmark for park management

The Dja Dja Wurrung Joint Management Plan promotes Traditional Owners' strong culture and connection to lands and waterways.

The Joint Management Plan will articulate the vision, goals, outcomes, measures and long-term strategies for parks within planning areas. Management plans have a 15-year time frame and adopt a landscape-wide approach, and will consider things bordering the park that influence how a park operates.

Strategies include:

  • the conservation of natural values and cultural values (including heritage protection)
  • managing threatened species
  • the recognition and utilisation of traditional Dja Dja Wurrung knowledge and customs
  • attracting and managing visitors, and identifying opportunities for benefits flowing from enhanced park experiences for visitors, the Dja Dja Wurrung People and the wider community
  • connection with broader Dja Dja Wurrung Country
  • consequent economic, social, cultural and environmental benefits for Dja Dja Wurrung People and the wider community.

The result is a best-practice, innovative plan, that sets a new benchmark for park management in Victoria, and Australia.

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