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Indigenous Engagement

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Indigenous Engagement

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Discuss about the Indigenous Engagement.

Australia has initiated the Indigenous land and sea management activities with the involvement of various groups and organizations (Hill et al. 2013). Natural and resource management relates to management of interaction between people and the natural landscapes. It includes range of activities for managing the natural resources, environment and cultural heritage (Martin and Trigger 2015). These initiatives have contributed to the development of “conservation-based economy” with significant social and cultural benefits in remote areas (Kerr et al. 2015). The essay explains the term “indigenous engagement” in context of natural and cultural resource management. It further provides an assessment of the necessity of engagement by government agencies, business and NGOs with Indigenous stakeholders in land and sea management. Later it discusses the implications of successful and unsuccessful participation of indigenous stakeholders on the management agencies. A thorough literature review is performed to support the facts provided in the essay. Finally, the essay draws a conclusion based on the overall discussion.
Firstly, it is necessary to discuss why particularly Australia emphasizes on “Indigenous engagement” for natural and cultural resource management. The origin of these activities lies in the fact that there is a holistic relationship of 50,000 years between Australian Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities and their customary lands and sea estates (Martin and Trigger 2015). Since 1970, Australian Indigenous communities have received ownerships on significant areas of land (Perth et al. 2015). Since then, these communities have showed great interest in land and sea management. Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders embrace their traditions and culture very tightly and are very particular in implementing long-established cultural practices that are passed on by their ancestors (Langton et al. 2014). These include worshiping of sacred plants, which also have great medicinal values, performing species-specific ceremonies and use of traditional resources seasonally (Hemming and Rigney 2014). Aboriginals are involved in contemporary practices such as feral animal and weed management and other activities include maintaining desired environmental conditions by use of fire (Kerr et al. 2015). A great deal of research has been conducted on Aboriginal’s cultural and traditional practices and the research findings showed that these activities are highly beneficial to the environment (Pert et al. 2015). The present day environment in coastal and island region existing in Australia is due to these cultural practices of Indigenous population. The other regions in Australia have undergone great climatic and sea level changes.  The necessity of Indigenous engagement in land and sea management is due to recognition of their spiritual and cultural connections with connection and passion for active participation in protecting their motherland (Watkin et al. 2016).
According to Hill et al. (2012), the government of Australia has initiated these caring for country activities after recognizing the value of environment and biodiversity on Indigenous management lands and their importance in sustaining lives of present and future generation (Altman and Jackson 2014). Government agencies have started employing Indigenous Australian in national parks, and organizations involved in natural resource management incorporating Indigenous Ecological Knowledge (IEK). These communities have also established their own land and sea management agencies (Pert et al. 2015). These land and sea management activities are funded by all levels of governments in Australia. The government engages indigenous communities to establish a protected area on their own after they have successfully claimed their lands and work for its betterment. The “non-government Natural Resource Management bodies”, have also responded and provided support through funding, policy innovations and partnerships (Watkin et al. 2016). Indigenous people engage with multiple stakeholders such as government, conservationists, scientists, in managing environment through various mechanisms- “Natural Resource Management” (NRM), “water planning processes”, “native title agreements”, “and endangered species initiatives” and others (Bohensky et al. 2013). The “Commonwealth Employment Program in Natural and Cultural Resource Management” provided contract employment opportunities for Indigenous Australians in Marine Park, Crown land and national parks (Smyth and Isherwood 2016).  The establishment of government independent NRM bodies as well as “Aboriginal Ranger services” on Kowanyan land and Palm Island has provided new directions to present time “Indigenous land management agencies”( Hill et al. 2013). Some of the other regional organizations for land and sea management include “Murray Lower Darling Rivers Indigenous Nations” (MALDRIN), “North Australian Land and Sea Management Alliance” (NAILSMA) (Langton et al. 2014).
The necessity of Indigenous engagement is to improve the social, economic and environmental viability of the land (Cunneen and Libesman 1995). The Indigenous engagement for land and sea management is an interrelated pathway. The NGOs and NRM agencies need support from these communities to manage natural resources efficiently incorporating IEK (Jang et al. 2015). To support the initiatives partnership with Indigenous stakeholders require enhanced support to provide them with adequate training and education in “environmental research disciplines” and simultaneously transfer their knowledge for betterment of land and sea (Kerr et al. 2015). The need to understand the ecological importance of some of the plants, wild animals such as buffaloes and horses and to gain knowledge if these animals are bush pests or bush pets, rock hole cleaning and knowledge of bees triggers Indigenous engagement (Anaya 2004). It promotes management of threatening processes, preserve natural resources and sustainable agriculture. Altman and Jackson (2014) believes engagement is an innovative framework to better handle issues related Marine Park; protect the cultural values of Aboriginals including “traditional hunting, fishing, and gathering”. This framework alternately improves the life of Indigenous communities by enhancing self-dependency, dignity, respect, improved outlook on life, and greater development of organizational skills (Martin and Trigger 2015). Their engagement is highly important in saving ecologically important marine resources such as marine turtles and dugongs and recognizing culturally important domains of the “Great Barrier Reef Marine Park” in Australia (Jang 2015). Conclusively, Indigenous engagement offers multiple benefits that are protection of environmental resources, sustainable economic development and tourism industry, sustaining Indigenous culture and minimizing the social determinants of Indigenous communities.
The engagement of Indigenous communities in land and sea management is an optimistic approach. The Law of Sea adopted by UN convention in 1982 created positive implications for Indigenous people. They regained control and improved access to marine resources. Martin and Trigger (2015) studied that the successful engagement of the Indigenous stakeholders and partnerships with NGOs worked well due to strong Indigenous leaderships and their involvement in decision making regarding “policy framework of human rights and respect for self determination” (Pert et al. 2015). The positive implication of the NRM agencies of successful engagement of Indigenous stakeholders originated from partnership built on Indigenous history, culture, IEK, aspirations and understanding of Indigenous capacities. The positive implication was also an outcome of better living conditions, protection of rights and empowerment of Indigenous Australians (Hill et al. 2013). The unsuccessful engagement of Indigenous communities in some cases was due to poor governance and coordination by agencies, existence of racism in organizations (Anaya 2004). In addition, the NRM agencies failed to “tangibly resource” the Indigenous partner. According to the case study reports of Jang (2015), funding allocations by the government agencies were too small and supported only “one-off programs” which caused limited sustainability of health improvements. Moreover, there was a power imbalance due to weak funding relationship (Martin and Trigger 2015). The mainstream providers of some of the NGOs lacked cultural sensitivity and failed to provide sufficient information to the stakeholders. Due to short time frame, and partnership with inadequate resources and differences in “pay, position and training between mainstream and Aboriginal health workers”. Consequently, it resulted in unsuccessful engagement of Indigenous communities. It delayed the accomplishment of goal of “successful land and sea management” (Cunneen and Libesman 1995).
In conclusion, there have been significant changes in the protected land areas and current marine management arrangements in coastal regions. Further development can be observed by paying attention to urgently needed reforms such as “National Reserve System for Marine Protected Areas” (NRSMPA), requires establishment of MPAs by Act of Parliament. Since last 30 years, there has been a quantum increase in funding by the Commonwealth government in Indigenous land and sea management initiatives. These increasing initiatives are giving rise to diverse partnerships with research, government bodies, and non-government conservation agencies resulting in mutual benefits for all parties. It may take another decade to demonstrate if land and sea management economy is a short term or long term propitious niche for Australian Indigenous communities. The natural resource management initiatives driven by Indigenous groups instead of government policies incorporating IEK clearly appears to have long-term future as they are grounded in Indigenous culture. The government must respond to this momentum positively and overcome its challenge of not burdening the fund recipients with reporting and excessive compliance processes.
Altman, J. and Jackson, S., 2014. Indigenous land and sea management.Ten Commitments Revisited: Securing Australia’s Future Environment. CSIRO Publishing, Collingwood, pp.207-216.
Anaya, S.J., 2004. Indigenous peoples in international law. Oxford University Press, USA.
Bohensky, E.L., Butler, J.R. and Davies, J., 2013. Integrating indigenous ecological knowledge and science in natural resource management: perspectives from Australia. Ecology and Society, 18(3), p.20.
Cunneen, C. and Libesman, T., 1995. Indigenous people and the law in Australia. Butterworth-Heinemann. Havea, J. ed., 2014. Indigenous Australia and the Unfinished Business of Theology: Cross-Cultural Engagement. Springer.. 
Hemming, S. and Rigney, D., 2014. Indigenous engagement in environmental water planning, research and management: Innovations in South Australia’s Murray-Darling Basin Region. Goyder Institute for Water Research Technical Report Series, (14/21).
Hill, R., Grant, C., George, M., Robinson, C.J., Jackson, S. and Abel, N., 2012. A typology of indigenous engagement in Australian environmental management: implications for knowledge integration and social-ecological system sustainability. Ecology and Society, 17, pp.1-17.
Hill, R., Pert, P.L., Davies, J., Robinson, C.J., Walsh, F. and Falco-Mammone, F., 2013. Indigenous land management in Australia: extent, scope, diversity, barriers and success factors.
Jang, H.S., 2015. Social Identities of Young Indigenous People in Contemporary Australia.
Kerr, S., Colton, J., Johnson, K. and Wright, G., 2015. Rights and ownership in sea country: implications of marine renewable energy for indigenous and local communities. Marine Policy, 52, pp.108-115.
Langton, M., Palmer, L. and Rhea, Z.M., 2014. Community-oriented protected areas for indigenous peoples and local communities. Indigenous Peoples, National Parks, and Protected Areas: A New Paradigm Linking Conservation, Culture, and Rights, p.84.
Leonard, S., Parsons, M., Olawsky, K. and Kofod, F., 2013. The role of culture and traditional knowledge in climate change adaptation: Insights from East Kimberley, Australia. Global Environmental Change, 23(3), pp.623-632.
Martin, R.J. and Trigger, D., 2015. ‘Nothing never change’: mapping land, water and Aboriginal identity in the changing environments of northern Australia’s Gulf Country. Settler Colonial Studies, 5(4), pp.317-333.
Pert, P.L., Ens, E.J., Locke, J., Clarke, P.A., Packer, J.M. and Turpin, G., 2015. An online spatial database of Australian Indigenous Biocultural Knowledge for contemporary natural and cultural resource management.Science of The Total Environment, 534, pp.110-121.
Smyth, D. and Isherwood, M., 2016. Protecting sea country: Indigenous peoples and marine protected areas in Australia. Big, Bold and Blue: Lessons from Australia’s Marine Protected Areas, p.307.
Watkin Lui, F., Kiatkoski Kim, M., Delisle, A., Stoeckl, N. and Marsh, H., 2016. Setting the Table: Indigenous Engagement on Environmental Issues in a Politicized Context. Society & Natural Resources, pp.1-17.

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