Multiple benefits of Indigenous land and sea management programs

Indigenous people are integral to the conservation of Australia’s biodiversity and maintenance of cultural resources. Their ecological knowledge, passed on from one generation to another, has seen them successfully manage their land for tens of thousands of years. The importance of this knowledge is recognised throughout the world and is financially supported by investments in a variety of Indigenous Land Management Programs (ILMPs) (mostly, but not exclusively, funded by government). Aside from generating ecological benefits, these programs generate many co-benefits – i.e. social, cultural and economic benefits which accrue to Indigenous people, the government and the wider Australian community.

A previous research project (on which this new project builds) highlighted that we have some understanding of the monetary value of some of these co-benefits (e.g. incomes earned by rangers),  but have an incomplete understanding of other less tangible co-benefits (e.g. those relating to culture).  So we do not have a holistic appreciation of the net benefit (or economic ‘value’) of ILMPs, to support investment funding decisions.

Moreover, we have an incomplete understanding of the way in which co-benefits vary across  different types of land management programs; knowing whether some programs generate more co-benefits than other programs can help guide investment decisions.

Funding agencies such as governments, businesses and NGOs would like to know if their investments represent ‘value for money’. This project will provide quantified, comparable data about the co-benefits of different types of ILMPs. In doing so, it will generate information that is likely to:

a. Support continued and improved funding to support Indigenous people working on country; and

b. Better guide investments towards ILMPs that effectively deliver most benefit in different contexts.

The current research will focus on:

  • How much has been invested in ILMPs, and how that investment generates financial benefits for both Indigenous and non-Indigenous people (researchers will, for example, look at salaries and other expenditures on ILMPs and at the way that money flows through to other parts of the economy). This will help us better understand the financial benefits of ILMPs and the distribution of those benefits within the broader community.
  • The way in which Indigenous people are able to set up businesses that leverage off (or are associated with) ILMPs (particularly Indigenous Protected Areas), thus promoting economic independence. For example, researchers will document the number and types of Indigenous businesses that are associated with the land, noting how long they have been in operation, and how far they are from various markets.
  • Different techniques for ‘valuing’ intangible and inter-related benefits in an Indigenous context. This will help to better understand the relative importance of the benefits associated with different ILMPs and of related Indigenous businesses.
  • The way in which the social connections associated with ILMPs facilitate knowledge exchange (for example, looking at what information is transferred through ILMPs, to who, how, and the way in which various people benefit from this knowledge sharing).

June 2018 project update.

June 2018 update

December 2017 project update.

Dec 17 update

June 2017 project update.

5.3 update

The study will be undertaken with the support of five PBCs in two regions: Ewamian Aboriginal Corporation (QLD), Walalakoo Aboriginal Corporation, Yi-Martuwarra/Yanunijarra Aboriginal Corporation, Bunuba Dawangarri Aboriginal Corporation, and Gooniyandi Aboriginal Corporation (WA). The research will follow ethical standards and work on the basis of mutual benefits, mutual trust and mutual respect.

Case study regions catchments and IPAs

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 will be 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 will be undertaken—Sharon Prior, Brendan Fox, Peter Murray, Steve Heggie, Melinda Sheppard, Damian Parriman, Vaughan Duncan, Lynette Shaw and Chantelle Murray—will provide assistance such as sourcing data and cultural brokering.

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

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 ©
  • Bush Food ©
  • Arnhem Land Landscape © Mellyd-100
  • Landscape Arnhem Land Landscape © Mellyd-100 Aurelie1
  • Bush tucker. Credit: Michael Lawrence-Taylor