In recent decades, various forms of co-management of national parks and other protected areas by governments and Indigenous people have come to the fore. This has occurred as Indigenous peoples have progressively demanded greater access to and decision- making power over their traditional lands. The response of governments has also seen the aligning of a number of policy approaches that have contributed to an increase in attention to co-management.
In this paper, we are concerned with the regulatory and non-regulatory ‘formal institutions’ defined by Maclean et al. (2012: 21) as ‘the rules, regulations and social norms that are formalised in conventions, strategies, policy and plans’ that frame the entrance to co- management arrangements. The paper first provides an overview of these institutions in Commonwealth, state and territory jurisdictions, and discusses a number of evolving pathways to co-management in Australia, in particular native title. It then makes some jurisdictional comparisons of these institutional arrangements, questioning their relative value and whether their diversity is creating significant inequities among Aboriginal people.