Land degradation issues and management concerns for Aboriginal communities of central Australia

Land degradation issues and management concerns for Aboriginal communities of central Australia Conference Paper

Agronomy - Growing a Greener Future, 9th Australian Agronomy Conference

  • Author(s): Wickam, S.
  • Published: 1998
  • Publisher: School of Environment and Information Sciences, Charles Sturt University, Albury, NSW

Abstract: Aboriginal land management in Central Australia is not a recent phenomenon. When we discuss these concerns today we are addressing degradation consequences relating to industrial activities such as pastoralism, mining or tourism. Over the past 22 years Aboriginal people in the Northern Territory have had to examine more closely past land use practices and indeed how they relate to problems associated with degradation given that they have regained significant tracts of land. Much of the traditional land now owned by Aboriginal people comprises former pastoral leases, and in many cases the pastoral activities have been maintained. More importantly over this period Aboriginal people have diversified into partnerships with mining and tourism, thus adding another dimension to pressures on the landscape. This new responsibility has come about through the introduction of the Aboriginal Land Rights (NT) Act (1976). This Act has taken Aboriginal people the full cycle, that is, Aboriginal people went from extensive land holders, pre-European contact, to the landless after contact and back again as a result of the establishment of the Act. The introduction of the Act, at last, gave Aboriginal people in the Northern Territory an avenue to negotiate ownership of their respective country. Aboriginal people though have constantly and strongly argued that the land has always been theirs and consequently became the victims of the legal system to justify those claims. The result of this success brought with it the need to expose intimate knowledge and disclosure of sacred wisdom. Where Aborigines could successfully win the right to lands, time, technology and economics had, in many regions of the Northern Territory, caught up with them. Indeed, Aboriginal people have never found this change repugnant nor did they mind operating on equitable terms. The land rights process was then set to test the mettle of the Federal, Territory and Local governments. The Act would also test the ability of the broader community to act in accordance with judgements that would follow, given that considerable opposition already existed stemming from what could only be termed retrospectively as traditional enemies. Initial opposition came from the "... Northern Territory Legislative Assembly, the Finke River Mission, the mining companies and the pastoralists" (9). While well established bodies had infrastructure already in place to take up the issues for pursuing legalities, the Act also allowed for the implementation of such representative bodies as the Northern, Tiwi and Central Land Councils. Their central responsibilities have been to ensure the complex tasks such as representing Aboriginal traditional owners in preparing claims, negotiating with stakeholders, identifying and consulting with traditional claimants, mediating concerns pertaining to land use between Aboriginal groups, and "... administration of Aboriginal land. This includes the granting of permits for entry on to Aboriginal land" (9). Other issues that have come in to play are "... mining, sacred sites, roads, cattle, fencing, incorporation of Aboriginal groups, brands, bushfire control, soil conservation, feral animals, stock disease, distribution of royalties (9) and, for the most part, management of all lands acquired through the process of the Act. In some cases partnerships have been successfully formed with stakeholders such as the Australian National Parks and Wildlife Service, at places like Uluru where both the CLC and the Pitjantjatjara Council have majority representation on the Board of Directors.

Notes: Aboriginal land management in central Australia. Today this issue has concerns involving degradation relating to industrial activities such as pastoralism, mining or tourism. Aboriginal people in the Northern Territory over the past 22 years have had to examine past land use practices and how they relate to problems associated with degradation given that they have regained significant tracts of land. Much of the land has pastoral activities being maintained on it; and aboriginal people have now diversified into partnerships with mining and tourism - thus adding another dimension to the pressures on the landscape. This new responsibility has come about through the Aboriginal Land Rights (NT) Act 1976. The Act has also allowed the implementation of such bodies as the Northern, Tiwi and Central Land Councils. This paper addresses land management issues. Sub-sections include headings: (1) pre-contact land management practices (2) The history of pastoralism in central Australia (3) The Central Land Council and land management issues (4) Pastoralism (5) Tourism (6) Mining.

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Suggested Citation
Wickam, S., 1998, Land degradation issues and management concerns for Aboriginal communities of central Australia, Conference Paper, viewed 19 September 2019, https://www.nintione.com.au/?p=4225.

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