How Aboriginal joint management works

We form agreements with Aboriginal communities to cooperatively manage and protect national parks and reserves.

Lookout view Wombeyan Caves part of The Greater Blue Mountains World Heritage Area Colong Sector Wombeyan Karst Conservation ReserveJoint management usually involves Aboriginal people who have a cultural association with a park getting involved in park management and/or advising on its management.

A joint management arrangement can be negotiated with Aboriginal communities for any reserve category managed by the National Parks and Wildlife Service (NPWS), part of the Office of Environment and Heritage (OEH). This includes national parks, state conservation areas, regional parks, nature reserves, karst conservation reserves and Aboriginal areas.

Joint management arrangements vary, for example, they can:

  • cover one park
  • cover multiple parks
  • result in a change in ownership of the land
  • be part of larger agreements with native title holders.

Approaches for joint management

There are different approaches to the joint management process and the involvement of Aboriginal communities in park management at the policy, planning and direction-setting levels. This involves the formation of Aboriginal boards and committees that have different roles and relationships with OEH.

Under joint management arrangements, the Aboriginal community involved makes decisions for a park through:

Collaborative day-to-day management

Aboriginal involvement in day-to-day management varies from park to park. The Aboriginal community works collaboratively with NPWS and OEH to protect, manage and conserve the natural and cultural values of a park.

Involvement in the day-to-day management of a park occurs through:

  • collaborative projects within the park between NPWS and Aboriginal organisations
  • NPWS employing and training Aboriginal people
  • participation of Aboriginal community members in NPWS projects and programs
  • Aboriginal organisations undertaking contract works in the park
  • Aboriginal communities using the park for cultural camps and other cultural activities (e.g. NAIDOC week).

Steps to take to achieve a joint management partnership

First, a joint management partnership involves capacity building and community engagement. This will help:

  • identify the need and/or desire to implement joint management.
  • agree to negotiate a joint management partnership and the type of partnership – this decision needs to be endorsed by government and follow government protocols
  • start negotiation and development of the agreement for joint management
  • obtain endorsement of the agreement by the Aboriginal community and government
  • set up operation of the park/reserve under a joint management partnership, which also involves:
    • review and evaluation
    • decision making – establish committee/board, define roles and responsibilities, induction of members, corporate governance, conflicts of interest
    • contracting products or services
    • plan of management
    • financial management
    • access and use.

If you are a member of an Aboriginal group with a cultural association to a park, and your group is interested in talking to us about joint management, staff at your local NPWS office can talk to you about the options available.