Updated: June 14, 2011
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Indigenous Conservation Strategies
Aboriginal land managers are leading conservation strategies
Aboriginal land rights, Indigenous ecological knowledge, and the land management expertise of many Traditional Owners, combined with the present-day conservation agenda, have produced one of the most important developments in environmental policy and practice in Australia.
Indigenous conservation is occurring all across the country right now. Indigenous Australians are engaging in a number of conservation initiatives like the Indigenous Protected Areas (IPA) Program, Aboriginal owned or cooperatively managed National Parks, ranger programs and other natural and cultural resource management initiatives.
Support is needed for these initiatives including policy and legislative support at the State and Federal level and secure funding and cooperative arrangements for what will be leading edge conservation into the future.
The Wilderness Society is working with Traditional Owners to bring Indigenous conservation strategies into a nationally coordinated framework.
This will deliver more substantial and enduring benefits to Indigenous communities, such as secure employment and the health and social benefits that accrue from working on country while going a long way towards meeting the conservation goals of the Australian community.
Indigenous conservation is a major contributor to Australia’s protected area system.
Already, through the Indigenous protected areas program, over 20 million hectares (an area roughly the size of Victoria) have been added to our national reserves. These protected areas are voluntarily declared by Traditional Owners on Aboriginal-owned lands and managed to international standards for nature conservation.
IPAs should be recognized and supported by coordinated strategies through all levels of Government, as they are a success story for the environment and for Indigenous Australians; delivering a social and economic future for Indigenous communities, providing jobs, and protecting natural and cultural heritage.
"The following statistics*, generated from internal reporting, support the argument that IPAs deliver improved social outcomes as well as contributing significantly to our national reserves":
- 95% of IPA communities report economic participation and development benefits from involvement with the program;
- 60% of IPA communities report positive outcomes for early childhood development from their IPA activities;
- 85% of IPA communities report that IPA activities improve early school engagement;
- 74% of IPA communities report that their IPA management activities make a positive contribution to the reduction of substance abuse; and
- 74% of IPA communities report that their participation in IPA work contributes to more functional families by restoring relationships and reinforcing family and community structures.
*From Gilligan 2006 The Indigenous Protected Areas program - 2006 Evaluation
Other important developments include new and emerging partnership arrangements between Indigenous, environmental and other interests. Aboriginal-owned and cooperatively managed National Parks are one important example.
These new forms of National Park offer a high level of protection for ecological values, address cultural, social, economic and legal Aboriginal rights and support the interests of the wider community.
Other examples include programs to address climate change such as the West Arnhem Land Fire Abatement (WALFA) Project which is estimated to have saved Australia between 96,000 and 200,000 tonnes a year of CO2 – by reducing the spatial extent and intensity of fires (Woinarski et al, 2007).
Off reserve initiatives such as natural and cultural resource management and ranger programs also provide ongoing and practical protection for our outstanding environments while providing badly needed employment opportunities for communities.
WildCountry Indigenous Conservation Strategies
In all parts of Australia, the future of conservation will involve strong partnerships between Indigenous, environmental and other interests as well as tenure blind approaches to lands and seas to ensure the kind of landscape-scale protection required is applied for the longevity of our ancient and evolving continent.
The Wilderness Society, across Australia, is committed to supporting Indigenous Traditional Owners as the primary conservation managers of their homelands and as major contributors to a national conservation strategy.
One way that we are doing this is through cooperation agreements with Traditional Owner groups. These agreements include initiatives to support Indigenous conservation and the environmental goals of the wider community such as biodiversity conservation, cultural heritage protection, cooperative research and homelands development, in some areas over whole ecological regions.
Through our WildCountry Indigenous Conservation Strategies, we are actively working on a program in which land justice, Indigenous rights and conservation combine, to look after the extraordinary natural and cultural values of the Australian environment.
By supporting the growing Indigenous conservation estate, The Wilderness Society aims to generate sustainable livelihoods, real returns to the conservation economy and ensure the maintenance of a safe, healthy and prosperous country.
For more information, please contact:
The Wilderness Society Inc