Multiple benefits of Indigenous land and sea management programs

This research shows that well-designed ILSMPs can:

  • contribute to northern development and help close the (income) gap
  • promote Indigenous business development and economic independence
    promote Indigenous wellbeing
  • facilitate knowledge exchange, which is important to Indigenous wellbeing
    help Indigenous communities meet their wider aspirations.

It also highlights that we need better methods to measure and value goods and services which deliver benefits beyond face value, and which benefit communities rather than individuals.

Indigenous land and sea management programs (ILSMPs) are gaining a reputation for providing a core function in communities, with growing evidence of a variety of environmental, cultural, social and economic outcomes being delivered. This research provides quantified and comparable information about multiple, local to national scale socio-economic and wellbeing benefits associated with ILSMPs.

It is important that governments, Indigenous organisations, industry and others fully recognise these benefits and that appropriate data are collected to better measure them, otherwise ILSMPs may be undervalued and overlooked in investment and development decisions.

In addition to their well-known environmental outcomes, ILSMPs generate a range of socio-economic benefits, from those that flow to individuals to those that benefit society, and from simple benefits (e.g. jobs) to complex (e.g. maintenance of culture). Methods to economically value these benefits are still developing and different methods are suited to assessing different types of benefits. Current commonly used methods are adept at highlighting the value of simple individual goods, and there has been recent progress in tools to value complex individual goods. Better methods are however urgently needed to estimate the value of complex goods and services that benefit whole communities, such as those provided by ILSMPs, or we risk simply investing in those that are easy to measure rather than those providing the greatest benefits.1

This research has contributed to improving methods by elucidating these limitations (Figure 1) and by adapting the ‘life satisfaction’ approach – a method that measures the contribution of selected factors to an individual’s wellbeing – to assess the value to communities of complex goods related to ILSMPs.8 We are also investigating other methods such as the Participatory Project Selection Tool.6

Goods & benefits

Figure 1. An example of a simple good that generates individual benefits is commercial fisheries (bottom left), where an individual earns money and food for themselves. A complex good that generates individual benefits is recreational fishing (bottom right), where the individual may catch food for themselves and also enjoy a day on the water even if they don’t catch any fish. A simple good that generates social benefits is small-scale or subsistence fisheries (top left), where the fish are caught to provide food for the entire community, particularly people who are unable to fish for themselves. Traditional Indigenous fisheries are complex goods that generate multiple interconnected social benefits (top right) by providing food for individuals and the broader community while maintaining important shared socio-cultural practices such as traditions, stories and ceremonies. ILSMPs provide many complex, social benefits that are difficult to value.

ILSMPs can generate national benefits by stimulating regional economies and achieving the government policy objective of equitably closing the income gap between Indigenous and non-Indigenous people. By providing greater economic benefits to Indigenous households than other investments, ILSMPs can support the creation of self-sustaining Indigenous economies (Figure 2).

These programs also improve Indigenous wellbeing by improving things that many Indigenous people feel are important – particularly caring for country, providing access to country, having positive role models in the community, and knowledge exchange. ILSMPs can also enable communities to meet wider aspirations by overcoming constraints and structural barriers to development. When ILSMPs empower communities they can also help close the ‘governance’ gap.

ILSMPs contribute to northern development and help close the gap2

  • ILMSPs provide greater economic ‘knock-on’ benefits than many other industries – so investing $100 in ILSMPs may enable regional economies to grow faster than investing $100 in agriculture or mining (Table 1).
  • ILMSPs can provide relatively greater income benefits to Indigenous households than non-Indigenous households.
  • Investing in ILSMPs results in regional economic growth, which enables both Indigenous and non-Indigenous businesses to grow.
  • ILSMPs could contribute further to closing the income gap by increasing the proportion of Indigenous workers within their payroll and encouraging purchasing from local businesses that are Indigenous owned and/or employ Indigenous staff.

ILSMPs promote Indigenous business development and economic independence3

  • The remote Indigenous economy is different to the Western urban economy – growth in ‘standard’ western industries will not always create growth for Indigenous communities.
  • ILSMPs are able to grow Indigenous economies in a way that aligns with cultural values.
  • Expenditure on ILSMPs causes self-sustaining growth in Indigenous businesses, including businesses that are not themselves directly involved in land management.
  • It can take up to three years before significant business income growth occurs.

ILSMPs promote Indigenous wellbeing4

  • ILSMPs increase the overall life satisfaction (wellbeing) of Indigenous people.
  • Life satisfaction increases because ILSMPs improve things that many Indigenous people feel are important – particularly caring for country, providing access to country and having positive role models in the community. When planning and implementing ILSMPs, care should be taken to focus on the things that matter the most to the communities involved.
  • ‘Owning your own business’ was an important factor for a relatively small group of people (not surprising, since there are few Indigenous businesses) but this factor made a big contribution to overall life satisfaction for those people.

ILSMPs facilitate knowledge exchange, which is important to Indigenous wellbeing7

  • Knowledge exchange is an important part of people’s wellbeing and overall life satisfaction – often even more important than financial factors.
  • ILSMPs facilitate the exchange of both traditional and Western generated knowledge.
  • People who are involved in ILSMPs gain direct and indirect benefits from the knowledge exchanges ILSMPs facilitate such as improved training and education (including business skills), learning more about their country and culture, and opportunities for being a role model or to be mentored by a role model.

ILSMPs can help Indigenous communities meet their wider aspirations5

  • Governments often focus on things like employment and income when assessing ‘development’. Communities tend to view development more broadly – particularly important to communities is having the ‘freedom’ to choose which things they would like to develop (income, employment or something else).
  • Some communities stated that ILSMPs have contributed towards ‘freedom’ – their vision of development.
  • Communities (and government) are also able to use ILSMPs in a strategic way to overcome constraints to achieving community development.
Flow of benefits

Figure 2. Funding for ILSMPs generates improvements in many different forms of ‘capital’. These flow through to Indigenous households and businesses, stimulating Indigenous economies and contributing to prosperous Indigenous communities and multiple other benefits.

 

Industry Kimberley Northern Territory Far north Qld
Accommodation & food services 1.9 2.4 2.5
ILSMPs 1.8 2.4 2.5
Agriculture 1.6 1.5 2.1
Beef cattle 1.5 2.1 2.0
Mining 1.4 2.0 2.0

Table 1. Economic multipliers for ILSMPs are higher than those for some other major industries. The numbers show how much $1 of investment multiplies through the regional economies.

Proving the effectiveness of ILSMPs is crucial to secure continued funding, but current monitoring typically doesn’t adequately track progress towards ILSMP socio-economic objectives and related benefits. Data to measure progress is limited, with monitoring mostly focussing on activity rather than outcomes, and on individual benefits rather than community benefits. Monitoring and reporting also need to better account for the time lag between investment and some socio-economic outcomes.

Published

1. Stoeckl N, Hicks C, Farr M, Grainger D, Esparon M & Larson S. 2018. The crowding out of complex social goods. Ecological Economics 144: 65-72. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.ecolecon.2017.07.021

2. Jarvis D, Stoeckl N, Hill R & Pert P. 2018a. Indigenous Land and Sea Management Programmes: Can they promote regional development and help ‘Close the (income) Gap’? Australian Journal of Social Issues https://doi.org/10.1002/ajs4.44

3. Jarvis D, Stoeckl N, Addison J, Larson S, Hill R, Pert P, & Watkin-Lui F. 2018b. Are Indigenous Land and Sea Management Programs a pathway to Indigenous economic independence? The Rangeland Journal https://doi.org/10.1071/RJ18051

4. Larson S, Stoeckl N, Jarvis D, Addison J, Prior S & Esparon M. 2018. Using measures of wellbeing for impact evaluation: proof of concept developed with an Indigenous community undertaking land management programs in northern Australia. AMBIO https://doi.org/10.1007/s13280-018-1058-3

5. Addison J, Stoeckl N, Larson S, Jarvis D, Bidan Aboriginal Corporation, Bunuba Dawangarri Aboriginal Corporation RNTBC, Ewamian Aboriginal Corporation, Gooniyandi Aboriginal Corporation RNTBC, Yanunijarra Ngurrara Aboriginal Corporation RNTBC & Esparon M. 2019. The ability of community based natural resource management to contribute to development as freedom, and the role of access. World Development 120: 91-104 https://doi.org/10.1016/j.worlddev.2019.04.004

In review

6. Grainger D & Stoeckl N. A simple valuation method for complex social goods.

In preparation

7. Jarvis D, Larson S, Larson A, Grainger D & Stoeckl N. Does knowledge exchange enhance or reduce Indigenous wellbeing, and by how much? A case study developed with communities undertaking Indigenous land and sea management programs in northern Australia.

8. Grainger D, Jarvis D, Larson S & Stoeckl N. Can the life-satisfaction approach be used to ‘value’ Indigenous land and sea management programs?

January 2019

Project leader Professor Natalie Stoeckl provides an update as the Multiple benefits of Indigenous land and sea management programs project nears its conclusion. This talk was presented at the TNRM conference, November 2018.

The project is being led by Professor Natalie Stoeckl from James Cook University (JCU). Professor Stoeckl is being assisted by JCU’s Jane Addison, Diane Jarvis, Michelle Esparon, Daniel Grainger,  Marina Farr and Silva Larson.

Representatives from the five communities where the research is being undertaken – Sharon Prior, Brendan Fox, Peter Murray, Steve Heggie, Melinda Sheppard, Damian Parriman, Vaughan Duncan, Lynette Shaw and Chantelle Murray – are providing assistance such as sourcing data and cultural brokering.

In WA, this project is partnering with Bunuba, Gooniyandi, Yanunijarra and Nyikina-Mangala Traditional Owners. In Queensland, this project partners with Ewamian Traditional Owners.

Contact
Professor Natalie Stoeckl, JCU: [email protected]
Dr Diane Jarvis, JCU: [email protected]
Dr Jane Addison, JCU: [email protected]

    

 

 

 

  • Researchers conducting interviews in north Queensland, photo Ewamian Aboriginal Corporation.
  • Preparation for Aboriginal body painting ©iStock.com/itpow
  • Bush Food ©iStock.com/itpow
  • Arnhem Land Landscape ©iStock.com/ Mellyd-100
  • Landscape Arnhem Land Landscape ©iStock.com/ Mellyd-100 Aurelie1
  • Bush tucker. Credit: Michael Lawrence-Taylor