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Indigenous land management in urban and peri-urban landscapes


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This research examined the roles, challenges and opportunities for Indigenous land management in urban and peri-urban landscapes through a case study of Bunya Bunya Country Aboriginal Corporation (BBCAC) on the Sunshine Coast, Queensland, Australia. The study is distinct in that it documents the work of Kabi Kabi (Gubbi Gubbi) Traditional Owners, Australian South Sea Islanders, and historically-connected Aboriginal people in a setting that is peri-urban and urban in location and land use, and where native title has yet to be determined. This is in contrast to previous ILM research in Australia that tends to focus on rural or remote locations with large natural areas and protected lands. Data were collected using semi-structured interviews, participant observation (e.g. during monitoring activities) and analysis of secondary sources (e.g. organisational documents) between 2014 and 2015. The data shows that Indigenous land managers in urban and peri-urban landscapes work in a variety of roles, particularly when partnering with other land user groups to manage complex environmental issues. Significant challenges to their work include the effects of urban development and population growth/change, poor cross-cultural engagement with decision-makers, a growing gap for work opportunities between Aboriginal and non-Indigenous organisations, and barriers to appropriate, long-term funding and resources. There are several opportunities to overcome these challenges through existing programs such as the Indigenous Ranger Program, decolonised decision-making tools (i.e. “boundary objects”) and sustainable enterprises that draw on public, private, and customary economies (e.g. eco-cultural tourism). The research highlights the need for bottom-up, Indigenous-driven approaches to ILM on the Sunshine Coast to address land management issues in a way that delivers socio-economic and cultural co-benefits to local Aboriginal peoples.

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Indigenous land management in urban and peri-urban landscapes

  1. 1. INDIGENOUS LAND MANAGEMENT IN URBAN AND PERI-URBAN LANDSCAPES Rachele Wilson (Honours candidate) DrTristan Pearce (Supervisor), Dr Scott Lieske (Co-supervisor)
  2. 2. Traditional ILM  Place-specific system of practices, developed over thousands of years To manage resources (e.g. food, water, shelter) To maintain connections to Country and respect local customs WHAT IS INDIGENOUS LAND MANAGEMENT ANDWHY IS IT IMPORTANT? Introduction Painting 'Aborigines using fire to hunt kangaroos’ by Joseph Lycett, c 1820, depicting fire- stick farming in NSW Ngadju / Marlpa peoples maintain knowledge of ‘water trees’ in WA There were over 250 Aboriginal language groups in Australia at the time of European colonisation
  3. 3. Contemporary ILM  Aboriginal andTorres Strait Islander peoples working in: conservation, parks management, natural resource management (NRM)…  Through over 700 Indigenous ILM groups in Australia  Using traditional andWestern methods WHAT IS INDIGENOUS LAND MANAGEMENT ANDWHY IS IT IMPORTANT? Introduction Yurung Dhaura Aboriginal Land Management team (ACT) are recognised for their work in bush regeneration and cultural heritage management Wunambal Gaambera Aboriginal Corporation (WA) are using new tools to monitor turtles and dugongs on seacountry Both traditional and contemporary ILM is vital for human health and wellbeing, economic development and ecological sustainability
  4. 4.  ILM is over reported for places where Aboriginal peoples have rights over their traditional lands  Little is known about the role of ILM in urban and peri-urban areas (where most of the population resides) ILM AND NATIVETITLE Introduction In2012, Indigenous peoples held land rights and native title determinations for 21% of Australia, and limited responsibility for a further 39% through other registered native title claims . Source: Altman and Markham, 2013
  5. 5. Research aim To examine the roles, challenges and opportunities for ILM in urban and peri- urban landscapes through a case study of Bunya Bunya Country Aboriginal Corporation (BBCAC) on the Sunshine Coast, Queensland, Australia. Objectives  To identify and describe the roles of Indigenous land managers working in urban and peri-urban areas of the Sunshine Coast;  To document opportunities and challenges for Indigenous land managers working in urban and peri-urban areas of the Sunshine Coast; and  To draw key lessons for improving ILM in urban and peri-urban areas on the Sunshine Coast, Queensland and Australia. RESEARCH AIM AND OBJECTIVES Introduction
  6. 6. RESEARCH METHODOLOGY AND DESIGN Methods Key stages of participatory research process enacted throughout the study (based on Pearce et al. 2009). Descriptive case study design and participatory research approach
  7. 7. BACKGROUND AND STUDY AREA Methods  Kabi KabiTraditional Owners, custodians, South Sea Islanders and historically-connected Aboriginal people  Sunshine Coast, particularly Maroochy and Mooloolah river catchments  Urban and peri-urban land use
  8. 8.  Semi-structured interviews, focus group discussions, participant observation, and analysis of secondary sources  Transcripts returned to participants for “member checking”  7 interviews / FGDs, 80 hours of observations and field notes DATA COLLECTION Methods Taking field notes during a cultural awareness tour (photo by Barry Alsop). Observations while monitoring Water Mouse (Xeromys myoides) nests. Sample characteristics for Bunya Bunya members and other key informants. Field work was conducted with both groups, only BBCAC members were included in interviews and/or focus group discussions.
  9. 9.  Data integrated and analysed using thematic (latent content) analysis  Classified as primary or secondary and coded to respective case nodes and in vivo into categories under “roles”, “challenges” and “opportunities” themes  Categories that did not appear across multiple and different sources of data were eliminated DATA ANALYSIS Methods Data were thematically analysed and grouped into categories in Nvivo software.
  10. 10. ROLES Results Land management roles performed by BBCAC and its members. BBCAC members: volunteering (top left; photo by N Morwood); inducting trainees (top right); monitoring habitat (bottom left); and propagating mangroves (bottom right).  BBCAC plays an active role in the Sunshine Coast community and is involved in a range of activities
  11. 11.  Members reported urban development and population growth/change, financial barriers, governance, and cross-cultural awareness as challenges to ILM CHALLENGES Results Challenges for land management experienced by BBCAC and its members. Member observes Jet Ski user (top left); unproductive oyster farm (top right); eroded river bank (bottom left); damaged cultural heritage site (bottom right).
  12. 12.  Members are interested in opportunities to develop a more Indigenous-driven approach to land management on Country and developing a more organised eco-cultural tourism experience that is of benefit to localAboriginal peoples OPPORTUNITIES Results Opportunities for land management suggested by BBCAC and its members. “We could probably hand a bit more of this work over to some other Murri people who want to learn about this, and teach them up, so we can empower ourselves and teach young fellas in how they can work the land too.” (Kerry) “I would like to have our own cultural centre, a keeping place, where we can have a permanent display. Where my brother can have his Gubbi Gubbi dance group. Like in Cairns, their cultural centre, I'd really like that here. We could have an environmental section. We could have those bush tucker gardens. We could have those workshops and audio recordings playing, all being active on Country.” (Bridgette)
  13. 13. MULTIPLE ROLES AND COLLABORATION FOR COMPLEX MANAGEMENT ISSUES  Roles respond to land management issues typical of urban and peri-urban landscapes in addition to responsibilities as Traditional Owners  Multiple sources of threats require collaboration and engagement with other land users and stakeholders  Collaboration requires good cross- cultural engagement and adequate funding Discussion BBCAC operate in a catchment that is known to have poor nutrient cycling due to increased sediment loads. Collaboration with pastoralists and farmers through the FarmFLOW project aimed to reduce soil erosion and nutrient run-off from these sources. But more is needed to engage other land users. Source: Healthy Waterways and Landcare
  14. 14.  Lack of stable, adequate and appropriate funding is recognised as a barrier to long-term sustainability of ILM projects and partnerships  Majority of ILM groups are under- resourced, and rely on several small funding sources to cover project costs  A hybrid economy provides a means for more stable, appropriate funding BARRIERSTO ADEQUATE, LONG-TERM FUNDING AND RESOURCES Discussion Ideal model for hybrid economy. ILM is more productive and resilient in a hybrid economy where funding sources cross sectors. Source: Altman 2009.
  15. 15.  ATSI peoples’ knowledge, values and responsibilities to Country are often marginalised from decision-making processes  As a “boundary object”, the “TO Terms and Conditions” could to reverse decision-making processes, and enable a more Indigenous-driven approach to engagement  This could facilitate cross-cultural awareness between groups and place a greater onus on non- Indigenous partners to meet Aboriginal expectations of effective engagement and associated financial costs BOUNDARY OBJECTS FOR CROSS-CULTURAL ENGAGEMENT Discussion The “boundary object” developed and used by Girringun peoples (N Qld) to communicate their knowledge and values in decision-making processes with other TO groups and non- Indigenous agencies (Zurba and Berkes 2014).
  16. 16.  This research examined the roles, challenges and opportunities for ILM on the Sunshine Coast  Members fulfil a diverse set of roles through community engagement, ecological restoration, cultural heritage conservation, and enterprise development  Most pressing challenges stem from insufficient, short-term funding and resource limitations (i.e. access to land and basic infrastructure, poor engagement)  Opportunities to improve include drawing on public and private economies for a more systematic yet localised approach to ILM  Key to improving ILM on the Sunshine Coast and in general is the need for bottom-up, Indigenous-driven approaches that deliver socio-economic and cultural co-benefits to local Aboriginal peoples CONCLUSIONS AND FURTHER RESEARCH Conclusions and recommendations
  17. 17. Kerry Jones, Sean Fleischfresser, Bridgette Davis, Genevieve Jones, Loretta Algar, Anne Miller, Arnold Jones and Helen Jones, DrTristan Pearce, Dr Scott Lieske, Dr Jennifer Carter, key informants and helpful persons of the Kabi Kabi and Jinibara nations, the University of the Sunshine Coast (Faculty of Science, Health, Education and Engineering) and theVice Chancellor for scholarships, the Sustainability Research Centre, Dr Maria de Lourdes Melo Zurita, Dr Roy Sidle, Dr Erin Smith, Dr Chris Jacobs, Dr Pedro Fidelman, LukeVerstraten,Yolanda Arkesteijn, Jo Nicholls, Bonnie Killip, Elektra Grant, Michael Dan and Kelly Chambers. THANKYOU Acknowledgements