Indigenous land management in Australia: extent, scope, diversity, barriers and success factors

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Hill, Ro ORCID ID icon; Pert, Petina ORCID ID icon; Davies, Jocelyn; Robinson, Cathy; Walsh, Fiona; Falco-Mammone, Fay



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Indigenous land and sea management, also referred to as 'caring for country', includes a wide range of environmental, natural resource and cultural heritage management activities undertaken by individuals, groups and organisations across Australia for customary, community, conservation and commercial reasons. These activities have their origins in the holistic relationships between traditional Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander societies and their customary land and sea estates-or 'country'-that have evolved over at least 50 000 years. Increasing formal involvement of Indigenous peoples was highlighted in the 2011 Australia-state of the environment report as one of four standout trends in environmental management over the past decade. These formal roles mean Indigenous land management (ILM) requires cross-cultural engagement with non-Indigenous land management and managers. This report, commissioned by the Indigenous Working Group of the Australian Landcare Council to build the capacity of Landcare, presents the findings of a review of the extent, scope and diversity of ILM across Australia, and the associated success factors and barriers, together with best practice examples. Key drivers of Indigenous land management activities are as follows: - Customary obligations for management and use of country. Culture, family, language and customary law underpin Indigenous peoples' responsibility for their traditional land areas throughout Australia (Figure 1). - Indigenous leadership at multiple levels of decision making. This has led to the establishment of contemporary Indigenous land management (for example, through Community Rangers) since the 1980s. - Markets for land management and associated goods and services. For example, the Fish River Fire Project, approved as the first Indigenous carbon offset project under the Australian Government's Carbon Farming Initiative, will generate about 13 000 Kyoto-compliant Australian carbon credit units each year for sale. - Recognition of Indigenous rights and interests in land through title and agreements. Indigenous peoples' interests are recognised formally through agreements or land title in well over half of Australia's land area; in 16% of Australia, this recognition is through tenure; 8.3% through native title determined as being held over the whole area; in 12.9% through native title determined as held over part of the area; and in 39% through Indigenous land use agreements (ILUAs) with multiple other parties. More than one of these mechanisms apply to some land areas, and ILUAs may give limited or no access for Indigenous land management purposes. - Movement towards Indigenous and co-managed conservation areas. This is reflected in 53 declared Indigenous Protected Areas (IPAs) covering 36 million hectares, just over 40% of Australia’s National Reserve System. -Investments for improved environmental and cultural heritage outcomes. This has resulted in an increased proportion of Australian Government funding for environmental management that is allocated to ILM, up from $0.5 million (1.3%) in 1992-97 to at least $91 million (20%) in 2010-12. Indigenous peoples with customary obligations have now organised themselves to respond to opportunities to have their land management activities supported through government funding. They now undertake significant projects across Australia, and are the key providers of land management services in many remote and regional areas, with some providers operating in urban centres. The Australian Government is the largest investor in ILM, according to the data available for this study. A very small proportion of funding comes from philanthropic sources; investment by state and territory governments is larger than philanthropic funding, but was not able to be quantified for this study. Multiple benefits have been derived from this investment including: - health and wellbeing benefits-for example lowered blood pressure levels, lowered di...



Conservation and Biodiversity

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Hill, Ro; Pert, Petina; Davies, Jocelyn; Robinson, Cathy; Walsh, Fiona; Falco-Mammone, Fay. Indigenous land management in Australia: extent, scope, diversity, barriers and success factors. Cairns: CSIRO; 2013. csiro:EP124759.

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