Fee for Service in Indigenous Land and Sea Management: impact assessment and analysis

Aboriginal Australians economic participation Indigenous land management Land care Australia

The Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet (PM&C) has commissioned Winangali and their partners Ipsos and ARTD to evaluate the impact of Fee for Service (FFS) activities undertaken by Indigenous Land and Sea Management (ILSM) organisations (ranger groups). The impact evaluation uses a realist approach that includes participatory methods and culturally appropriate ways of engaging with local organisations to obtain evidence about the extent of commercial activities and the impact of FfS activities.

In this evaluation, Fee for service (FFS) is defined as a contractual agreement where a partnering organisation pays fees to a ranger group, or pays the salaries of ranger group staff, in return for land- and sea management services (labour and intellectual services; the partner may also pay for operational/capital items such as vehicles and machinery). The services are conducted by Indigenous rangers who have been involved on Indigenous Protected Area (IPA) or ranger programs on a casual, part-time or full-time basis.

Key Findings:

  • Fee for service income was reported to benefit the broader community beyond the ranger program, through supporting community members and Traditional Owners getting back on country.
  • Other benefits from FFS income included rangers being seen as role models for members of the community.
  • FFS work has given many ranger groups the opportunity to enhance existing skills and develop new ones such as plant host mapping, mosquito mapping and pest insect identification. Such new skills are acquired through working alongside expert scientists as a part of a FFS contract.
  • Identifying funding to be used for Indigenous specific programs (specificity) allows groups to manage land in ways that are aspirational and based on Indigenous knowledge, rather than fitting to Westernised or other imposed criteria.

Within the cultural enterprise economy, Indigenous culture and knowledge do not conflict with modern economic principles; instead, they complement and enhance business development opportunities. This empowers Indigenous people to manage their country and is proving to be a solution to reduce entrenched socioeconomic disadvantage, welfare dependence, political marginalisation and poverty. It is creating revitalised communities, empowering Indigenous leadership, driving social change and delivering remote community development.

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