THE acknowledgement and understanding of the region’s Indigenous and non-Indigenous cultural heritage values and their management has increased over the past seven years.
Cultural heritage and social values of natural assets have been specifically assessed and addressed in many management plans.
The community has become more willing to incorporate cultural heritage values into management projects. In some circumstances this can be limited due to lack of skills and resources, or suitable funding to undertake assessments.
However, the region benefits from a core body of research organisations and individuals with the necessary skills and capacity to undertake this work when funding permits.
It is important to maximise the benefits of Aboriginal knowledge of land and culture to all South Coast NRM themes and present opportunities for Indigenous involvement in natural resource management.
Aboriginal people's continued involvement with environmental projects is vital to the cultural identity of Western Australians and needs to be nurtured through its early stages and reviewed to assess its progress, successes and failures.
Cultural Heritage has primarily focussed on developing the capacity of Aboriginal people within the region to manage priority sites of cultural significance. Our current focus is to identify streams of funding to continue cultural projects to help build greater Aboriginal involvement and cultural understanding of natural resource management.
In recent years Aboriginal involvement has greatly expanded with active engagement of communities in environmental activities. Better communications have been established, including the formation of the Aboriginal Reference Group.
A range of policy initiatives, legislation and regulations in Aboriginal Affairs have been designed to provide opportunities for members of the Indigenous community to pursue economic, social, cultural, linguistic and environmental benefits of land-associated activities.
Mainstream government programs also provide land and natural resource management opportunities, particularly in the areas of agriculture, environmental restoration and conservation. State Government commitments to Indigenous involvement in NRM include:
Joint management of protected areas, including the establishment by the Department of Parks and Wildlife (DPaW) of Demonstration National Park Councils and memorandums of understanding with regional Aboriginal Land and Sea Councils.
The active development and delivery of traineeship programs by the Department of Fisheries WA and DPaW.
The past seven years has seen more opportunities for the Aboriginal community to engage in natural resource management, including the employment of Indigenous NRM officers who have assisted Aboriginal land managers, community organisations and individuals to have a greater role in on-ground actions across South Coast NRM themes.
The region has 13 Indigenous Land Corporation properties of less than 15,000 ha and nine Aboriginal Lands Trust properties of 10 - 10,000 ha which can have a significant contribution to achieving outcomes.
Aboriginal NRM officers and others, engage key stakeholders such as land and sea councils, together with managers of Aboriginal lands and State agencies with Indigenous interests or responsibilities. Most importantly, are coordinated with NRM groups throughout the region.
The implementation of the regional Aboriginal consultation framework will expand the existing cultural knowledge within regional communities and therefore enhance NRM.
Outcomes improve when Aboriginal representation is involved in the type of decision-making which affects the lives of Indigenous and non-Indigenous people. Effective Aboriginal participation is dependent on the capacity to engage and negotiate to effect these decisions.
South Coast NRM involvement
South Coast NRM employs a community and cultural program leader, a cultural program leader and two cultural project officers, responsible for involving Aboriginal people in:
- Planning and management of natural resources.
- building linkages between Aboriginal groups and the South Coast community, government agencies and Local Government Agencies.
- Encouraging and assisting people to implement sustainable land use on their properties through the incorporation of traditional practices and the further development of industries based on bush products.
- Developing training opportunities for land managers to increase their land management skills and providing employment and training opportunities through work teams in partnership with employment agencies.