New report urges governments to get the basics right to enable Indigenous land and sea management to thrive across Australia

Published: 9 Dec 2021

Governments must focus on the key elements of success if Australia’s Indigenous land and sea management sector is to grow and succeed into the future, according to a new report Strong on Countryby national non-profit Country Needs People.


Strong on Country Report front cover

Indigenous rangers, Indigenous protected areas and other forms of contemporary Indigenous land and sea management have taken on an increasingly important role at the frontline of tackling pressures on Australia’s biodiversity and cultural heritage over the last 30 years”, said Patrick O’Leary, Executive Director of Country Needs People.

Whether governments get things right or wrong makes a huge difference to this work on the ground. There is a lot we can be proud of in the evolution of these programs, but we can’t be complacent. There is huge demand to expand this work across Australia, and it’s vital that the foundations are solid. That involves both state and federal governments ensuring they are genuinely working with a shared vision to support traditional owner led organisations at the frontline.

Strong on Country sets out 28 practical recommendations for governments across 12 key focus areas. All the case studies, recommendations and lessons are drawn directly from the vast experience of our network of more than 41 frontline Indigenous partners who have learned what actually works.

Arafura Swamp rangers Charlie Ramandjarri and Neville Gulaygulay, work closely with coordinator Helen Truscott. Credit: David Hancock

At a time when we are facing enormous pressures on our natural environment and the increased challenges of a warming climate, we need to create the best chance for Indigenous land and sea management to succeed. Governments need to have constructive working relationships with traditional owners to better support and understand the challenges they face in delivering complex land and sea management operations often in incredibly remote parts of Australia.

The way governments interact with the sector matters. This report explains how governments can work as genuine partners and enablers. The day-to-day work - tackling fire management, feral animal impacts, invasive weeds, threatened species, cultural heritage protection and more, needs supportive and engaged state and federal governments with staff who understand the land and sea management task.

Indigenous Protected Areas now make up almost half of all of Australia’s protected areas on land, more work is being done on sea country, and the value of locally managed Indigenous ranger groups that are properly resourced is obvious. The demand for growth in this sector is huge, it generates jobs, connects with culture, and helps protect country. We must get the settings and fundamentals right to build on and sustain what has been achieved so far. This report sets out a clear series of guideposts to help on that journey,finished Mr O’Leary.