Indigenous biodiversity management

The project built on previous work to establish how monitoring and evaluation frameworks of Caring for Our Country and Working on Country may be adapted to the broader aspirations and strategic directions of Traditional Owner enterprises engaged in environmental management and sustainable livelihoods of Country.

A cross-cultural and inter-disciplinary group of Traditional Owner enterprise managers, Indigenous land and sea rangers, biological and social scientists worked together for two years to consider and adapt planning processes and monitoring and evaluation frameworks that aimed to better deliver integrated impacts across bio-physical, cultural, economic and institutional asset classes. This research aimed to support Indigenous enterprise maturity in integrated program management while supporting improved impacts in Caring for Country.

The outcomes of the research highlighted that inter-disciplinary participatory action research is able to support Indigenous enterprise development in environmental services with improved integrated strategic planning, participatory planning for monitoring and evaluation, capacity development in scientific monitoring methods and increased bio-physical management impacts over the research period.

Federal Indigenous environmental programs such as Caring for Our Country and Working on Country have specific outcomes which Indigenous people are engaged to help deliver, but these outcomes may not always align with, or be broad enough to cover the aspirations and plans of Indigenous communities.

The monitoring and evaluation elements of these programs may not be flexible enough to capture the wider social and cultural impacts of work being carried out by Traditional Owners. These wider impacts are essential to local groups’ understanding of progress towards their vision and also to broader government programs.

For communities where there is already a high level of demand for involvement of Traditional Owners in various government programs, monitoring and evaluation programs will be most successful when they have relevance to the local community, and are streamlined and effective.

In community forums between 2009 and 2012, Traditional Owner groups across five subregions of central and western Cape York identified a range of innovative, sustainable livelihood strategies and established governance institutions (Kalan Enterprises and APN Cape York). Activities were selected on the basis that they would provide a future income stream and improve biodiversity outcomes.

This project is helped groups to:

  • Create and apply socially and culturally appropriate adaptive management plans.
  • Work with CSIRO to collect robust, baseline biodiversity data.

The ongoing monitoring, evaluation and review phases of adaptive management cycles are often the most challenging for local enterprises. To address this, the research team developed and trialled a more holistic monitoring and evaluation framework and considered a range of monitoring and evaluation approaches that are appropriate to each organisation’s needs and aspirations.

The key output of this project was a framework to enhance adaptive management, monitoring and evaluation of sustainable livelihood projects by Traditional Owners in central Cape York. The framework identifies:

  • scientifically robust biodiversity monitoring programs to improve best practice in natural resource management (NRM);
  • a planning approach for NRM and sustainable livelihoods on country that develops appropriate monitoring and evaluation frameworks including indicators;
  • effective tools for planning, monitoring, evaluating and reporting; and
  • the forms of partnerships these organisations consider appropriate and the characteristics of effective inter cultural partnerships.

This proposal supported community-identified aspirations in the Archer River Basin and the central and western hinterlands of Cape York, Queensland. Specifically, the project was focused on properties in the Kaantju estate (the Toolka Land Trust), and the Southern Wik Clans area within the Aurukun Shire Lease.

The collaborative project included researchers from APN Cape York, Kalan Enterprises, CSIRO, The GEORG Group and University of NSW, and was managed by Balkanu Cape York Development Corporation. The project was led by Melissa Sinclair.

Project Leader
Melissa Sinclair

[email protected]