Investing in Indigenous cultural and natural resource managers

Indigenous cultural and natural resource management (ICNRM) creates many environmental, social, cultural and economic benefits. The ICNRM sector has grown quickly through investment by Indigenous communities and key government departments focused on Indigenous and environmental issues. To keep growing and getting stronger, ICNRM needs more diverse funding sources.  This means generating new investment for ICNRM enterprises from the corporate sector, philanthropic and non-government organisations, ICNRM fee-for-service customers, and Indigenous organisations. This research project is looking at what these potential investors might need from ICNRM agencies in order to meet their objectives. It is also showcasing how ICNRM agencies sustainably manage Australia’s natural and cultural resources.

Using Indigenous led and co-developed participatory methods, this project is supporting non-government investment in ICNRM by:

  • investigating why corporate, philanthropic and government fee-for-service sectors invest in ICNRM
  • identifying what investors need from performance and impact assessment
  • showcasing the multiple benefits of ICNRM
  • assisting ICNRM practitioners to highlight their value in investor-friendly ways.

The project is enabling conversations between ICNRM investors and practitioners, aligning investor assessment needs to reduce management workload, and providing advice, tools and recommendations to guide future investment.

The research team will look at the ICNRM performance and impact requirements of four key investor groups whose support can help ICNRM enterprises expand and diversify. These investors are: Indigenous organisations, corporate sector, philanthropic and non-government organisations and ICNRM fee-for-service customers.

Project activities

There are 4 key activities in the project:

  • Reviewing the existing evidence and reporting tools for ICNRM used by these four key investor groups
  • Evaluating the future performance and impact assessment requirements guiding their investment in ICNRM
  • Co-developing Indigenous and investor-led guidance, recommendations and tools to build improved performance and impact assessment
  • Identifying actions that ICNRM enterprises and government investors can undertake to attract investment from the corporate, philanthropic, Indigenous community, and fee-for-service sectors.

Anticipated project products

This project assists the ICNRM sector to attract, guide and evaluate corporate, philanthropic, fee-for-service, and Indigenous community investment into ICNRM enterprises. It is doing this through generating:

  • Information sheets for policymakers, key influencers and Indigenous groups about key outcomes, issues and messages
  • Investor-friendly guidance to understand ICNRM performance, impact, and future investment pathways
  • Guidelines to adapt existing metrics and reporting to better reveal the multiple benefits of ICNRM
  • Guidelines to adapt existing metrics and reporting to respond to the needs of Indigenous, corporate, philanthropic and government fee-for-service investors
  • Scientific presentations and publications.

The project complements past research initiatives that address government investor priorities. Supporting ICNRM enterprises and their activities also contributes to wider strategic initiatives such as northern development.

This project team is Kirsten Maclean, Marcus Barber, and Taryn Kong from CSIRO, supported by an Indigenous-led Steering Committee chaired by Ricky Archer from the North Australian Indigenous Land and Sea Management Alliance and representatives from the Kimberley Land Council, the Northern Land Council, Kalan Enterprises, Kowanyama Aboriginal Land and Natural Resource Management Office, Bush Heritage Australia and the Australian Land Conservation Alliance.

Field workshop partners are Kalan Enterprises in Coen, Cape York; Larrakia Nation in Darwin; and the Kowanyama Aboriginal Land and Natural Resource Management Office (supported by Abm Elgoring Ambung, the Native Title Corporation for Kowanyama).

Key Australian Government partners are the Department of the Agriculture, Water and Environment, and the National Indigenous Australians Agency.


Kirsten Maclean, CSIRO
E: [email protected]

Marcus Barber, CSIRO
E: [email protected]

  • Indigenous cultural and natural resource management would benefit from non-government investment, photo Glenn Campbell.
  • Kalan rangers and Justin Perry collecting samples.
  • Laura Ranger in FNQ, photo Lyndal Scobell.
  • Ranger workshop
  • Ranger workshop
  • Rangers working in shallow water environments, photo Glenn Campbell.