Collaborative management of protected areas

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Negotiations between native title holders and government bodies for joint management arrangements over national parks and other conservation areas are a major part of implementing native title rights. Coupled with the Indigenous Protected Areas (IPA) program, traditional owners have been active in pursuing opportunities to be back on country and look after it.

Joint management of land can provide positive outcomes for Indigenous people, but it involves a range of complex relationships and processes. Continued research helps to achieve more effective and beneficial joint management arrangements.

Joint management research is an ongoing focus of Land and Water and the Native Title Research Unit (NTRU) at AIATSIS. The objectives of this research are to:

  • facilitate the sharing of information and approaches to joint management and support a community of practitioners
  • identify and raise awareness of a number of pathways to joint management activities
  • draw attention to the inequities in the system for native title holders and traditional owners
  • investigate the relationship between formal arrangements for joint management and their impact on outcomes as seen by traditional owners.


Management team skills development

In September 2015 Dr Tran Tran travelled to Matuwa (Lorna Glen) in Western Australia to work with the Matuwa and Kurrara Kurrara Indigenous Protected Area (IPA) management team, to workshop their priorities for 2016 and develop decision making and governance skills.

The meeting was held over three days, with a ‘Martu only day’ to build upon decision making skills through scenario based role play, before a formal meeting with the Department of Parks and Wildlife. This was the first of a series of intercultural leadership workshops with the management team.

Indigenous protected area declaration

In July 2015, the Martu declared an Indigenous Protected Area (IPA) over 59682 km of exclusive possession native title land in Matuwa and Kurrara Kurrara, two former pastoral properties located 164 km northwest of Wiluna.

The IPA will be managed based on Martu conceptions of land forms in recognition of the different natural and cultural management needs of the area. AIATSIS was involved in drafting the plan and recording the dedication.

Protected area planning and implementation

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In 2014 AIATSIS participated in a series of Indigenous Protected Area (IPA) planning trips during which a draft IPA plan was prepared and presented to the Wiluna traditional owners. A copy of the finalised plan can be downloaded from here.

Dr Tran Tran and Rob Thomas presented on the project’s history at the International Union for Conservation of Nature, World Parks Congress in Sydney, 12-19 November 2014.

  • Tran, T & Thomas, R 2014, Strange bedfellows: collaborative management and native title in Australia’, IUCN World Parks Congress, Sydney, 12-19 November 2014.

Dr Tran Tran also convened a session at the National Native Title Conference 2014 on developing partnerships to manage country, focused on the role of developing partnerships as an important mechanism to support current or future rights and interests.

  • Langford, L, Thomas, R, Kealley, I and Ashwin, V, 2014, ‘Native Title, What Native Title? A case study from Wiluna Western Australia’ presented at the National Native Title Conference, Coffs Harbour, 4 June 2014

In November 2013, Lindsey Langford, Rob Thomas and Robbie Wongawol travelled to AIATSIS to present a seminar on the practical projects (such as the building of infrastructure and establishment of range programs) developed by the Land and Community team to support sustainable communities on Martu lands.

Case studies in the joint management of protected areas

AIATSIS completed three case studies in the joint management of conservation parks and IPAs in partnership with the Australian Collaboration, the Australian Conservation Foundation and the Poola Foundation (Tom Kantor Fund), as part of the ‘Success in Aboriginal Organisations’ Project.

Ms Toni Bauman completed a case study of Nitmiluk (Katherine Gorge) National Park (NT), and Mr Dermot Smyth carried out two case studies on the Dhimurru Indigenous Protected Area (NT) and the Booderee National Park in New South Wales.

International case studies of joint management

International examples of joint management arrangements provide a useful source of information and comparison. In 2009, the Canadian First Nations Forestry Program published a collection of case studies showcasing examples of successful joint management projects.

The case studies demonstrate progressive approaches to increasing the involvement of First Nation communities in the forest sector through forest management, business development, skills training and capacity building.

First Nations Forestry Program, 2009, First Nations Forestry Program: Success Stories 3.73MB, Government of Canada, Ottawa, 2009.

Research team

Last reviewed: 11 Dec 2018