Journal article

Co-management and Indigenous protected areas in Australia: achievements and ways forward

Sustainability Land use Aboriginal Australians Torres Strait Islanders Australia

Until recent decades, the establishment of protected areas contributed to the dispossession and marginalisation of Indigenous peoples in Australia. Recently, governance and policy frameworks have been developed and refined to recognise protected areas as part of Indigenous land and sea country, and to enable Indigenous people to participate in conservation planning and country management. Australia is an international pioneer in co-management of terrestrial protected areas and the declaration and management of Indigenous protected areas. However, progress has not been uniform across Australia and further policy and protocol development is required in the recognition of Indigenous peoples' rights and interests in marine protected area management; the implications of native title determinations over protected areas; and the achievement of practical, meaningful social and environmental benefits through conservation agreements and activities. This article considers progress in two key areas of Indigenous contribution to protected area management: co-management (joint management) of protected areas, which commenced in the late 1970s; and Indigenous Protected Areas, which commenced in 1997. Our observations concerning the achievements of the last 30 years and the opportunities for future directions within and beyond these initiatives were informed by participant contributions at the 2008 Australian Protected Areas Congress. Conference workshops and deliberations led to recommendations for improvements to enhance the recognition, respect and rights of Traditional Owners as protected area co-managers. Improved partnerships and communications across existing cooperative planning models are needed to enable Indigenous and non- Indigenous collaborators to share ways of enabling Country-based planning and management to assist in species and landscape conservation.

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