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Caring for our country – and its Indigenous custodians

Jackie Yowell

By Jackie Yowell

Indigenous land and sea management is an exciting and positive area to fund. So I am enthusiastic about participating in AEGN’s work to inform members about how Indigenous land and sea management (ILSM) might be supported. I think that you will be too – particularly if you can join fellow AEGN members at a briefing about some innovative ILSM projects, and to discuss how we can share in supporting the ILSM movement: in Melbourne Thursday 9 March and Sydney Monday 27 March.

More than 20 percent of Australia is now exclusively Indigenous owned and managed land, and much of it has rich environmental assets which are threatened. It makes a lot of sense that the Indigenous peoples who live in these remote environments, know them well, and are strongly motivated to care for country, are enabled to do so. Today there are over a hundred Indigenous ranger groups doing just that.

I have long been inspired by the multi-faceted benefits ILSM programs have shown.

In using both traditional knowledge and Western science there is two-way education for all those engaged in this environmental conservation. This is proving effective in managing fire regimes and invasive pests, monitoring biodiversity, rehabilitating land degradation and mapping cultural sites. That such valuable services are also sought from partners such as research institutions or companies also offers entrepreneurial opportunities for ranger groups. In these ways ILSM programs are supporting Indigenous men, women and families to maintain connection to country while being trained and then employed in work that preserves natural and cultural heritage for the nation as a whole. This work for the environment also leads to healthier, happier communities.*

The AEGN is aware that philanthropic funding for this work has been limited, largely due to the challenges of funding projects in remote locations, in which cultural practices and governance structures are unfamiliar. So, with thanks to The Christensen Fund’s support, AEGN is trialling a process to identify projects in this space that philanthropic funding can enable.

The trial process has called upon the on-ground experience of several leading practitioners in the Indigenous land-management sector to find live projects that need relatively modest levels of funding, and can be funded either by individual funds or collaboratively. The AEGN has also pooled knowledge from previous funders of ILSM projects, and others with experience in researching or working in Indigenous land management, to create a short-list of projects that we all hope will inspire funding support.

Jackie Yowell (Fairer Futures Fund- a subfund of Australian Communities Foundation)

Please visit the events page of the AEGN website for more information on the events. If you would like to know more about the ILSM projects please contact me – yowell@8ways.net – or Jen Grindrod jen@aegn.org.au or Ione McLean ione@aegn.org.au in the AEGN office.

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*Two recent reports which show this are: Working for Our Country, A review of the economic and social benefits of Indigenous land and sea management, Pew Charitable Trusts and Synergies Economic Consulting, 2016

Consolidated report on Indigenous Protected Areas following Social Return on Investment analysis, Social Ventures Australia for the Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet, 2016