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First Peoples

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Caring for country: An overview of Aboriginal land management in the Top End of the Northern Territory

Aboriginal Australians Indigenous land management Northern Territory

Aboriginal People in the tropical savannah of the Northern Territory (NT) own 170,000 square kilometers of land including 85% of the coastline. Land and sea country have great cultural, economic and social significance to Aboriginal people, underpinning their culture and society. Aboriginal landowners continue to be reliant on the natural environment for both spiritual and physical well-being. Creation ancestors form part of a living landscape and practices such as hunting, foraging, burning, caring for sacred sites and ceremony have an important place in contemporary Aboriginal life. These practices ensure the maintenance of spiritual, cultural and economic connections to land and sea.

From a scientific perspective these lands are some of the most biologically diverse and intact in the Northern Territory (and Australia). They support important biological values including nationally and internationally significant wetlands, migratory seabird and shorebird habitats and marine turtle nesting sites, rare and threatened species and endemic species. Many of these values are either very poorly represented or not represented at all in the Northern Territory's park system. Of the 23 bioregions represented in the Northern Territory, about one third occur predominantly on Aboriginal land.

Owning and managing lands of such significance brings with it many diverse challenges. In the mid 1990s, to better meet these challenges, Aboriginal traditional landowners in the tropical savannah of the NT began to formalise their land and sea management activities through the establishment of the Caring for Country programme or what are commonly referred to as ranger groups.

To date the Caring for Country programme has grown to include over 36 groups with up to 400 Aboriginal people employed in land and sea management. This seminar provides an overview of the Caring for Country Programme and examines how and why it works, as well as, what some of the challenges are that the programme faces.

Please note: This seminar is available in both Streaming Audio and MP3 formats.

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