Environmental governance: Indigenous participation in environmental management

Independent report to the Australian Government Minister for the Environment and Heritage
Beeton RJS (Bob), Buckley Kristal I, Jones Gary J, Morgan Denise, Reichelt Russell E, Trewin Dennis
(2006 Australian State of the Environment Committee), 2006

11.2 Indigenous participation in environmental management (more information on this topic)

In recent times, the percentage of Indigenous-owned and managed land has been slowly rising. In addition, there is a growing recognition and appreciation of Indigenous knowledge of the land and the sea and their biodiversity.

For SoE2006, the Australian State of the Environment Committee has sought information on Indigenous involvement in environment and heritage management in a novel way. Case studies were sought to illustrate a diversity of approaches to land and sea management. They were not intended to be fully representative of the ways Indigenous people are involved in environmental and heritage management.

The case studies illustrate the complexities of the ongoing engagement of Indigenous people with management of their country. For example, the South Australian Aboriginal Lands Indigenous Natural Resource Management Group is the first to be managed by a board of entirely Indigenous people. In this area of South Australia, Indigenous people’s knowledge of the land and its biodiversity is being captured with technology, such as the use of handheld computers to record species sightings. This knowledge is being connected directly to scientific information and to policy for improving the condition of land resources and the ability of the Indigenous people to gain economic benefit from their land.

The Lake Victoria Advisory Committee, with financial and resource support from the Murray–Darling Basin Commission, has advanced the protection of Indigenous burial sites on the shores of an operational water storage area on the Murray River. The process has not always been straightforward and has required goodwill and understanding from all participants to achieve both cultural heritage protection and water management results.

The deep commitment of the Waignayupeople in the Daly River region in the Northern Territory to their river and the surrounding catchment is affirmed directly by one of the participants in the Community Reference Group. She tells of the struggle to understand the technical language and to incorporate Indigenous knowledge into the Daly River Catchment Land Use Plan. Her experience illustrates the very different ways people have of seeing the world. The group’s report is now public and a new round of consultation is underway.