Processes for effective management: learning from agencies and Warlpiri people involved in managing the Northern Tanami Indigenous Protected Area, Australia

Processes for effective management: learning from agencies and Warlpiri people involved in managing the Northern Tanami Indigenous Protected Area, Australia Thesis

School of Environmental and Life Sciences

  • Author(s): Walker, J
  • Published: 2011
  • Publisher: Charles Darwin University
  • Volume: PhD

Abstract: Over the past three decades, protected area management has moved away from a strict preservation to a more socially orientated management ethos. This change is based on ideals such as biodiversity conservation, Indigenous and community participation, and sustainable development and use. These changes are increasingly being reflected through the World Conservation Union’s (IUCN) definition of protected area governance regimes, which attempt to reconcile conservation and development agendas between partners. Recent analysis shows that this is not easily achieved, even in more socially orientated regimes of co-management and Indigenous and Community Conserved Areas (ICCAs). In this dissertation I address why equity between conservation and development agendas of Indigenous peoples and partnering agencies are hard to achieve. The overall aim is to contribute useful insights into where management practice can be enhanced to attain a better balance. This study takes place within an Australian desert context. Aboriginal landowners, in conjunction with the Federal Government’s Indigenous Protected Area (IPA) program, manage a large amount of land through the national protected area system in desert Australia. The IPA program is considered a leading example of ICCA governance with Aboriginal values and objectives incorporated alongside those of the state. The Northern Tanami IPA, based in the Tanami Desert in the Northern Territory and managed from the largely Warlpiri populated community of Lajamanu, is the case study through which I investigate how local management and partnering agency agendas are being achieved. This evaluation takes place in the early life of the IPA in an attempt to better understand and improve management resilience into the future. I do this by examining the management intent and practice of key partners: Warlpiri people from Lajamanu; the Central Land Council (CLC); and the Federal Government Department of Environment, Water, Heritage and the Arts (DEWHA). The results of this research show that for Warlpiri people, country within the IPA needs to be managed in accordance with the values of cultural tradition, identity, well-being and spiritual connection. Management is multi-purpose, where the land and its resources are used and managed in numerous ways to provide a suite of social, cultural, environmental and economic outcomes. In contrast, agency staff interests in management relate principally to improvements in the ecological condition of the IPA, with some focus on the social and cultural outcomes from management. Such differing interests have constrained the achievement of management agendas within the Northern Tanami IPA. This is because partnership creation has not given enough attention to knowledge sharing, negotiation and investment in planning, decision-making and implementation over time. This has resulted in inequitable power relationships and imbalanced management accountability between Warlpiri people and partnering agencies. Through this research I aimed to study how to improve IPA management so as to reduce such gaps between intent and practice. I outline four practical ways in which management interventions need to progress. First, there needs to be increased investment at the institutional level in policy and program funding and support. This is required to continue the decolonisation of government ideals about Aboriginal notions and interests in managing country. Second, the Northern Tanami IPA needs to be viewed as a multi-scaled, co-managed system with a process of adaptive management at its core; there are multiple stakeholders, who have differing interests that need to be managed through a cycle of planning, implementation, monitoring and evaluation. Third, I outline the importance of enhanced cross-cultural management. Collaborations and partnerships need to be developed and sustained over time through knowledge sharing and negotiations if equity is to be achieved. Finally, it is crucial that management continues to be developed at the local level so that Warlpiri control and autonomy comes to the fore. This is vital for the continued process of Aboriginal self-determination through protected area management. Overall this research shows the value of investing in and supporting the development of partnerships in multi-scaled management regimes for sustained management efficacy where Aboriginal people and agencies work together. This is needed so that the costs and benefits of protected area management practice are fairly distributed amongst partners and management resilience is built into the future. Within Australia, this is particularly critical as the investment in protected areas owned and managed by Aboriginal people continues to grow.

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Suggested Citation
Walker, J, 2011, Processes for effective management: learning from agencies and Warlpiri people involved in managing the Northern Tanami Indigenous Protected Area, Australia, Volume:PhD, Thesis, viewed 19 May 2024,

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