Australia State of the Environment Report 2001 (Theme Report)
Prepared by: Dr Jann Williams, RMIT University, Authors
Published by CSIRO on behalf of the Department of the Environment and Heritage, 2001
ISBN 0 643 06749 3
Roles and Responsibilities (continued)
The involvement of Australia's Indigenous peoples in understanding and managing biodiversity is crucial, for three reasons. First, there is widespread recognition of the past, present and future custodianship of Australia's biodiversity by Indigenous peoples, and of their rights and responsibilities toward it under both customary and western law. Second, traditional and ongoing Indigenous knowledge is increasingly accepted as a valid and necessary information input to biodiversity management, alongside scientific information. Third, with some 15% of the continent under Indigenous ownership and/or management in 1996, often in remote environments that represent a management challenge, achieving protection of biodiversity without strong participation by local communities would be impossible.
An important aspect of Indigenous involvement in biodiversity is the recognition, continuity and use of traditional ecological or ethnobiological knowledge. The NSCABD recognised that an important means of protecting and managing biodiversity would be the discovery, documentation and continuity of the knowledge of Australia's Indigenous peoples who have maintained this biodiversity for many thousands of years before European occupation. One of the key objectives of the Strategy was to recognise and ensure the continuity of the contribution of the ethnobiological knowledge of Australia's Indigenous peoples to the conservation of Australia's biodiversity. A further recommendation in Action 4.1.8 (ANZECC 1996) was to:
Recognise the value of the knowledge and practices of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples and incorporate this knowledge and those practices in biodiversity research and conservation programs by:
(a) encourage the recording (with the approval and involvement of the Indigenous peoples concerned) of the knowledge and practices of Indigenous peoples;
(b) assess the potential of this knowledge and these practices for nutritional and medicinal uses, wildlife and protected area management and other purposes; and
(c) apply the knowledge and practices in ways that ensure equitable sharing of the benefits arising from their use.
However, the review of the Strategy's implementation (ANZECC 2001) found the outcome of Objective 1.8 was 'not achieved'. In particular, the authors of this review noted that:
To date, cooperative ethnobiological programs are limited and do not appear well-coordinated Australia-wide. Concerns have been raised about the lack of protection that would be given to the intellectual property rights of Indigenous peoples were they to offer information. There is a need to respect the knowledge of Indigenous peoples as an expression of a way of life and cultural identity as well as a tool for biodiversity conservation.
The Council for Aboriginal Reconciliation in its report on Achieving economic independence (2000, p. 6) recommended that:
(2E) State and national parks review their management and employment practices to ensure there is genuine opportunity for Indeigenous participation in planning and employment which acknowledges Indigenous community obligations and uses traditional knowledge and skills.
Use of Indigenous knowledge is mostly occurring in protected areas managed either by nature conservation agencies, Indigenous organisations or in joint management arrangements. The Commonwealth in 1999 established an inquiry into use of biological resources in Commonwealth areas (Voumard 2000) and Williams (1998) provided a review of the importance of traditional knowledge, and of its status as crucial intellectual property. There is a discernible transition from treating Indigenous heritage as comprising 'sites' and 'relics' only, toward appreciation of the Indigenous legal, social and management importance of total landscapes and a wide suite of biota. English and Brown (2000) described previous approaches as involving a division between cultural and natural heritage that is only now being appreciated as inadequate and not representing Indigenous custom, knowledge or law.
Governments in Australia have increased employment of Indigenous peoples in protected area management, established Indigenous Protected Areas (IPAs), entered into joint management arrangements for protected areas and created registers of Indigenous historic and cultural sites.
Commonwealth government policies and programs [BD Indicators 13.3, 24.8 and 25.2]
The Commonwealth government has entered into partnerships with Indigenous peoples in nature conservation through joint management arrangements with Indigenous traditional owners of Kakadu, Uluru-Kata Tjuta and Booderee National Parks. The traditional owners lease back the parks to the Commonwealth. Both Kakadu and Uluru-Kata Tjuta are World Heritage Areas. Booderee National Park contains the only Indigenous-owned botanical gardens in Australia.
Management arrangements with these parks provide for access and equity in Indigenous employment and training. For example, Indigenous employment is 30% of the workforce for Kakadu, 33% for Uluru-Kata Tjuta and 52% for Booderee. Boards of management for these parks provide for a majority Indigenous representation and an Indigenous chairperson (e.g. The Kakadu Management Board consists of 10 Indigenous members and four non-Indigenous members). Board meetings at Uluru-Kata Tjuta National Park are translated into Pitjantjatjara. At some parks, non-Indigenous staff undertake training in local Indigenous languages. These languages are also used for some Plans of Management (Uluru-Kata Tjuta Board of Management and Parks Australia 2000).
The Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority and the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Commission have proposed a strategy to develop a framework for Indigenous co-management of the Southern Great Barrier Reef. Plans of management are in the process of being developed for specific issues in the Hope Vale and Mossman regions.
The IPAP was initiated to encourage Indigenous involvement in the establishment and management of IPAs recognising the close links and compatibility between Indigenous culture and biodiversity (see The Indigenous Protected Area Program). Table 70 provides a number of statistics about the IPAP, including the number of projects that have been supported per IBRA region:
- An Indigenous Advisory committee has been established under the EPBC Act. This committee will advise on Indigenous knowledge and practices in conservation and sustainable land management practices.
- An inquiry to examine access to biological resources was conducted in early 2000 to advise on a scheme that could be implemented to provide for the control and access to biological resources in Commonwealth areas (Voumard 2000). The inquiry focused on ensuring equitable sharing of benefits arising from the use of Indigenous knowledge and practices and also addressed issues of intellectual property rights.
- In July 2000, Environment Australia announced a newly developed Indigenous Career Development and Recruitment Strategy to build on the 65 Indigenous staff already employed.
- The Contract Employment Program for Aborigines in Natural and Cultural Resource Management and the Aboriginal Rural Resource Initiative were both wound up.
|IBRA region||IBRA region size (ha)||% IBRA as Protected Area (1997)||Priority for National Reserve System||IPAP Project||IPAP Area (proposed or actual) (ha)||Year declared as IPA|
|Cape York Peninsula||11 590 399||13.72||Low||Pula and Deliverance||53||-|
|Central Ranges||9 706 061||0||Moderate||Central Ranges||NAA||-|
|Central Ranges||9 706 061||0||Moderate||Watarru and Walalkara||1 980 000||2000|
|Dampierland||8 945 678||0.84||High||Dampier Peninsula||NA||-|
|Furneaux||240 654||26.63||Moderate||Tasmanian LM||1 650||-|
|Furneaux||1 892 251||5.65||Moderate||Wilsons Promontory||NA||-|
|Gibson Desert||15 553 049||12||Moderate||Central Ranges||NA||-|
|Great Sandy Desert||39 459 921||2.33||Moderate||Great Sandy Desert||271 700||-|
|Great Sandy Desert||39 459 921||2.33||Moderate||Paraku||NA||-|
|Great Victoria Desert||42 375 084||16.44||Low||Anangu Pitjantjatjara Lands||1 000 000||-|
|Jarrah Forest||4 601 333||3.94||Low||Manguri||NA||-|
|Mount Isa Inlier||6 658 586||2.69||Moderate||Lake Moondarra||NA||-|
|Murray-Darling Depression||19 748 019||12.44||Moderate||MutawintjiB||-||1998|
|Nullarbor||19 500 428||18.59||Low||Yalata||456 300||1999|
|South East Coastal Plain||1 892 251||5.65||Moderate||Deen Maar||453||1999|
|Simpson-Strzelecki Dunes||27 787 605||27.87||Low||Witjira||-||-|
|South Eastern Queensland||6 860 424||4.03||High||Guanaba||100||-|
|Stony Plains||18 159 145||4.82||High||Finniss Springs||171 270||-|
|Stony Plains||18 159 145||4.82||High||Nantawarrina||58 000||1998|
|Stony Plains||18 159 145||4.82||High||Witjira||NA||-|
|Tanami||31 665 582||0.43||Moderate||Purta||390 000||-|
|Tasmanian Midlands||769 751||2.02||High||Risdon and Oyster Coves||141||1999|
|Top End Coast||6 931 917||15.8||Moderate||Amorrduk||-||-|
|Top End Coast||6 931 917||15.8||Moderate||Dhimmuru||20 000||-|
|Warren||1 044 781||26.16||Low||D'Entrecasteaux||-||-|
|West and South West||1 839 898||70.62||Low||West Coast Tasmania||-||-|
A Not available;
B Joint Management Area.
Source: Centre for Environment Management 1999.
State and Territory-based policies and programs [BD Indicators 13.3, 24.8 and 25.2]
- The ACT does not specifically mention Indigenous involvement in biodiversity or conservation management in its latest Nature Conservation Strategy 1998 or the Annual Report of the ACT Environment Advisory Council 1999.
- In 1998, Mutawintji National Park and Historic Site and Coturaundee Nature Reserve were transferred to the Mutawintji Local Aboriginal Land Council and leased back to NPWS under a joint management arrangement (see Mutawintji National Park). The IPA program funded some of the activities that helped to establish this management structure under its cooperative management component.
- Lake Mungo National Park, Mount Yarrowyck Nature Reserve, Mount Grenfell Historic Site and NSW Jervis Bay National Park have also been transferred back to their traditional owners for co-management with the NPWS. As part of the Eden Regional Forest Agreement process, Biamanga National Park is also under joint management.
- In 1998-99, NPWS allocated $350 000 to 55 discrete Indigenous heritage conservation projects.
- The NPWS employs the highest number of Indigenous people of all the Australian conservation agencies and provisions continue to be developed for employing and training Indigenous peoples as NPWS officers. The NPWS also maintains detailed and readily available statistics on Indigenous employment in the Service.
- The influence of Indigenous preferences, beliefs and practices are more apparent in the Northern Territory PWC annual reporting than for any of the other conservation agencies and there is provision for the Commission Board to have not less than three Indigenous members.
- The Commission does not have other readily available statistics on such aspects as Indigenous employment in the Commission.
- The PWC works with traditional owners in the establishment of IPAs and in cooperative land management and planning, such as with the Indigenous landowners of the Amorrduk clan areas with a view to later establishment of an IPA.
- Traditional knowledge has been very important in the development and implementation of fire mitigation programs, using both traditional and other (e.g. aerial survey) methods.
- The Commission also encourages involvement from Indigenous people in the development of park information relating to Indigenous culture and history. A report on Aboriginal Cultural Interpretation Guidelines for the Northern Territory has been produced .
- In 1998-99, the Aboriginal Employment and Career Development Strategy commenced.
- The Queensland Government is developing legislation at present under the Commonwealth's Native Title Act 1993 that may have some bearing on the way in which Indigenous affairs are approached by government departments. This is of particular importance to the QPWS as more than 140 of Queensland's national parks are subject to claims under the Native Title Act 1993, as at July 1999.
- In the QPWS, officers from individual regions engage in consultation on management expectations with Indigenous groups. Management expectations were developed in consultation with Indigenous people in Mount Moffatt (Carnarvon), Currawinya, Chesterton Range, Hell Hole Gorge and Moreton Bay and Islands in the Southern Region, Gumoo Woojabuddee Marine Park, Blackdown Tableland, Simpson Desert, Diamantina, Keppel Bay and Cape Hillsborough in the Central Region and Lawn Hill, Lizard Island, Cape Melville, Flinders Island, Lakefield, Cliff Islands and Mungkan Kandju in the Northern Region.
- Discussions have been initiated in 1999 for cooperative management with Ghungalu, Iman and Wadja claimant groups for Blackdown Tableland National Park.
- The QPWS trains Indigenous people in turtle biology.
- In 1998-99, a review was carried out of Indigenous involvement in the management of the Wet Tropics World Heritage Area, with a view to fostering more effective involvement. A report on the Review of Aboriginal Involvement in the Management of the Wet Tropics World Heritage Area was released in 1999 with many of the review recommendations able to be implemented immediately.
- In early 2001, the Wet Tropics Management Authority was in the process of appointing the High Level Negotiator recommended in the review. Discussions are still continuing, however, over issues such as native title and World Heritage management, traditional resource use and harvesting practices.
- The first IPA was declared at Nantawarrina in South Australia in 1998. In June 2000, this initiative received the United Nations Global 500 Award for outstanding environmental achievement. There are now a total of four IPAs in South Australia (see The Indigenous Protected Area Program).
- Joint management arrangements operate in Witjira National Park.
- A report on Sustainable Resource Management Strategy for Aboriginal Managed Lands in South Australia was prepared in 2000 to promote the sustainable management of Indigenous freehold and leasehold lands and to support the priorities of Indigenous people in nature management.
- As of early 2001, there were five IPAs declared in Tasmania at Oyster and Risdon Coves, Preminghana and Mt Chappell and Clarke Islands. These are all Indigenous owned lands declared and managed by the landowners as IPAs.
- With the exception of the IPAs, most Indigenous involvement in the Tasmanian National Parks and Public Land Management Group of the DPIWE is concerned with cultural heritage conservation rather than nature conservation.
- Indigenous sites are protected and managed in consultation with the Tasmanian Aboriginal Land Council.
- Issues in Indigenous heritage are included in ranger training programs.
- In 1998-99, Parks Victoria established an internal Indigenous Cultural Liaison Group to provide advice on Indigenous cultural heritage matters and to help develop cross-cultural awareness and training.
- A Memorandum of Understanding was signed with the Mildura Aboriginal Corporation over the management of Lindsay Island in the Murray-Sunset National Park.
- Liaison continues with the Yorta Yorta and Goulburn Clans Group over the management of the Dharnya Centre in Barmah Forest.
- Parks Victoria trains employees in working with Indigenous communities and in protecting Indigenous cultural heritage sites. Surveys of Indigenous cultural sites are undertaken with some surveys (e.g. Gabo Island) used in the preparation of management plans. Assessments are also made of the effect of fire on major Indigenous sites.
- In 1998-99, the Dreaming Theatre in the Brambuk Aboriginal Living Cultural Centre in the Grampians National Park was opened. This provides a venue to educate visitors about links between Indigenous people and the land, among other things.
- In August 2000, CALM announced a Draft Policy on Aboriginal Involvement in Nature Conservation and Land Management.
- The draft policy covers topics such as liaison and consultation, cooperative management, nature conservation on Indigenous land, management planning, Indigenous representation on advisory committees, employment and training, and legislative amendments to recognise Indigenous interests in CALM managed lands.
- In addition, the Western Australian RFA addresses the introduction of amendments to the CALM Act 1984 to permit Indigenous peoples to undertake traditional and cultural activities including hunting, gathering and ceremonies on State forests and public land.
- CALM also maintains an Aboriginal Employment and Training Plan.
Mutawintji National Park (formerly Mootwingee) and the nearby Coturaundee Nature Reserve in far western New South Wales are one example of evolving tenure and management approaches that seek to balance and integrate nature conservation, Indigenous peoples' land rights and management, heritage protection and recreational use. Situated 130 km north-east of Broken Hill, Mutawintji National Park has in recent years attracted increasing numbers of campers, naturalists, bushwalkers and other visitors.
Protection of the area's Indigenous art sites, among the State's most significant, dates from 1927, and the 486 ha Mootwingee Historic Site was gazetted in 1967. The Park was gazetted in 1982 and covers 69 000 ha, including 47 600 ha of wilderness. Coturaundee Nature Reserve was established in 1979. As well as the key art sites, the Park contains dramatic scenery, geological sites, European historical associations, and diverse flora and fauna attracted by permanent waterholes in steep gorges. Significantly, the Park and Reserve support the sole New South Wales population of the Yellow-footed Rock-wallaby (Petrogale xanthopus), an endangered species numbering fewer than 200 individuals. Evidence of Indigenous occupation, ceremonial uses and use of the area as an important meeting place has been dated to more than 8000 years before present.
Since 1983, the significance of the area to the Malyankapa and Pandjikali people has been recognised, and mechanisms established for joint management via the Mutawintji Local Aboriginal Land Council. Traditional owners continue to use the area for meetings and cultural purposes. In September 1998, the Park was handed back to the traditional owners by the New South Wales government and a Board of Management oversees the management of the Park.
Access within the Park is zoned carefully to balance protection and use. Intensive use areas exist for camping and walking, including disabled access to some gorge and art sites. Public use of the wilderness area is allowed but constrained by limited access. The Historic Site is a restricted zone, with public access only via guided tours under the control of the traditional owners. Management issues include feral animal and weed control, user impacts, protection of cultural heritage and protection of the Yellow-footed Rock-wallaby population. As the primary purpose of the Coturaundee Nature Reserve is the preservation of this species, no public access is allowed.
Table 71 gives an indication of Indigenous employment in nature conservation in jurisdictions for which data were available for this report.
|State||Indigenous people employed 1998-99 (No.)||Indigenous employment as a proportion of total agency employment (%)|
|New South Wales (NPWS)||157||7.5|
|Queensland (Environment Protection Agency and QPWS)||NA||2.7|
Source: NSW NPWS 1999; Queensland Environment Protection Agency and Parks and Wildlife Service 1999; Tasmanian Department of Primary Industry, Water and Environment 1999.
The establishment of intellectual property rights for Indigenous peoples is one area which would directly contribute to continuing and preserving the knowledge of Australia's Indigenous peoples. Further research is needed, however, on securing such rights and implementing workable practices. Some progress has been made on an ad hoc basis in the area of Australian bush foods (e.g. with the establishment of the Australian Native Bushfood Industry Committee). However, the issue of property rights could become much more important in terms of pharmaceutical products, where the monetary returns are much higher.
Addressing the issue of intellectual property rights for Indigenous Australians could have benefits not only for biodiversity conservation in Australia but also for Indigenous communities when their vast knowledge of native flora and fauna is used for commercial purposes. The Commonwealth government inquiry into access to biological resources (Voumard 2000) addressed issues of intellectual property rights for Indigenous peoples. As well, the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Commission has established an Indigenous Cultural and Intellectual Property Taskforce.