Aboriginal joint management model consultation

A groundbreaking proposal has been announced to develop a new model for Aboriginal joint management of the NSW national park estate in consultation with Aboriginal people and other national park stakeholders.

The NSW Government recognises that land title is central to the development of a new model for Aboriginal joint management. Accordingly, it is anticipated the new model will provide for the potential handback of title to all NSW national parks – covering nearly 10% of the State – over a 15 to 20-year period, subject to the land being leased back (long term and for nominal rent) to the NSW Government for its continued use and management as national park.

Expanding Aboriginal joint management across the national park estate will deliver economic benefits for Aboriginal communities by increasing Aboriginal employment and creating additional opportunities for Aboriginal businesses, as well as strengthening the role of Aboriginal communities in national park decision-making and enhancing the protection of cultural heritage.

In developing a new joint management model, the NSW Government is committed to:

  • providing ongoing public access to the national park estate in a manner that showcases our natural and cultural heritage and positions New South Wales as a world leader in nature-based tourism
  • implementing effective fire management across the estate, consistent with existing statutory obligations, including under the Rural Fires Act 1997 and our hazard reduction commitments
  • implementing feral animal, weed control, threatened species protection and other on-ground land management, which protects natural and cultural values in a manner consistent with NSW national parks being one of the world's leading protected area estates.

The proposed new model will be developed in consultation with Aboriginal communities and native title holders, as well as with other stakeholders who use and value our national parks, including conservation groups, tourism bodies, local government and recreational users.

This consultation process is expected to take around 18 months.

Consultation will include targeted regional workshops and broad public consultation, including a request for input on the proposed model. There will be 3 broad phases of consultation:

  • Stage 1 will focus on understanding aspirations and issues
  • Stage 2 will invite comment on a draft model developed based on feedback from Stage 1
  • Stage 3 – a proposed model will be refined following Stage 2 and released for public comment.

Current joint management arrangements will remain in place whilst a new model is being developed.

Stage 1 Consultation

The purpose of the Stage 1 Regional Aboriginal Workshops is to share information with Aboriginal people about the proposed key elements of a new joint management model, and to understand your aspirations for jointly managed national parks and reserves.

Stage 1 Regional Aboriginal Workshops schedule

Date Location
10 November 2022 Katoomba
14 November 2022 Newcastle
15 November 2022 Bulahdelah
21 November 2022 Grafton
21 November 2022 Nowra
22 November 2022 Narooma
1 December 2022 Redfern
2 December 2022 Kempsey
8 December 2022 Dubbo
9 December 2022 Online
1 February 2023 Armidale
8 February 2023 Broken Hill
13 February 2023 South-west Sydney
14 February 2023 Online
21 February 2023 Wagga Wagga
22 February 2023 Griffith
27 February 2023 Online

To register your interest to attend a Stage 1 Regional Aboriginal Workshop, please email:

ajm.reform@environment.nsw.gov.au

The following videos introduce the project and give an overview of joint management to assist with stage 1 of the consultation process.

Below, Atticus Fleming, acting Coordinator General, Environment and Heritage Group, Department of Planning and Environment, talks about the development of a new model.

The second video is Arakwal people and National Parks and Wildlife Service staff involved in joint management talking about what joint management of a national park involves.

Video 1 – Introducing the consultation workshops

Video 2 – What it's like to jointly manage a national park

If you attended one of the Aboriginal Joint Management Model Stage 1 Workshops and would like to provide more input that you didn't get to share on the day, please use this survey form.

Go to survey

You are also welcome to provide the survey link to other Aboriginal people who were unable to attend the workshop in their area and would like to share their thoughts or ideas towards developing a new Aboriginal joint management model.

Please note that non Aboriginal stakeholders will have opportunities to provide their input into the process at a later stage.

Frequently asked questions

To develop a new model for Aboriginal joint management of national parks through consultation.

It is anticipated the new model will provide for the potential handback of title to all NSW national parks – covering nearly 10% of the State – over a 15 to 20-year period, subject to the land being leased back (long-term and for nominal rent) to the NSW Government for its continued use and management as a national park.

This would be an historic step that no other Australian jurisdiction and few, if any, countries in the world have taken in recognising the importance of Aboriginal land ownership and management in the stewardship of protected areas.

It will deliver economic benefits for Aboriginal communities by increasing Aboriginal employment and creating additional opportunities for Aboriginal businesses, as well as strengthening the role of Aboriginal communities in national park decision-making and enhancing the protection of cultural heritage.

Joint management of national parks involves Aboriginal people and the National Parks and Wildlife Service working together to protect natural and cultural heritage.

Joint management is established through a written agreement between the National Parks and Wildlife Service and Aboriginal communities. It requires the 2 parties to work together in managing a particular park or reserve.

Around 2.28 million hectares, or 30% of the NSW national park estate, is currently managed under a joint management agreement.

However, Aboriginal people hold freehold title to only 2.2% of the national park estate. Native title has been formally recognised over 2.4% of the national park estate.

Many Aboriginal communities have requested that joint management be extended to national parks not covered by existing arrangements.

However, the existing joint management models are not equitable or consistent. Only one of the 3 current models allows Aboriginal people to hold freehold title. The models offer varying levels of involvement for Aboriginal people in decision-making, and provide inconsistent economic and employment outcomes.

A new model is needed to support the expansion of joint management in a manner that is consistent, equitable and affordable, and delivers greater socioeconomic benefits for Aboriginal communities.

A new model is also needed to ensure alignment with native title. A third of the national park estate is under native title claim.

Expansion of Aboriginal joint management, including formal recognition of ownership and connection to Country, has the potential to make a significant practical contribution toward Closing the Gap targets and broader reconciliation objectives. The aim is to develop a model that will deliver significant social and economic benefits for Aboriginal people, including increased direct employment and greater opportunities for Aboriginal businesses to deliver nature-based and cultural tourism and land management on park.

Aboriginal joint management strengthens national park management. Under existing arrangements, Aboriginal people work in partnership with National Parks and Wildlife Service to deliver outcomes for the wider NSW community through conservation, sharing of culture and heritage, land management, facilitating public access, promoting tourism and contributing to local and regional economies. Visitors to national parks have an enriched experience through interaction with Aboriginal peoples and an understanding of Aboriginal cultural values.

Importantly, Aboriginal joint management provides opportunities for increased self-determination and decision-making by Aboriginal people on how Country is managed.

The NSW Government is committed to ensuring ongoing public access to the national park estate.

Any new joint management model will recognise the importance of ensuring everyone can continue to enjoy visiting our national parks.

There will be no change to existing fire management arrangements, and National Parks and Wildlife Service will continue to deliver day-to-day on-ground management, enhanced by increased Aboriginal employment and engagement.

Around 12% of National Parks and Wildlife Service staff are Aboriginal. This is significantly higher than the NSW public sector average of around 3.3%.

A new joint management model will guarantee that core service delivery commitments are met in relation to feral animals, weed control, threatened species protection and other on-ground land management activities.

Establishing a process to identify who should hold title will be an important part of the consultation process with Aboriginal communities over the next 18 months, recognising that the transfer of title across the State is expected to be a 15-20-year process.

The new Aboriginal joint management model will be developed in partnership with Aboriginal communities, and only finalised after extensive consultation with other stakeholders with an interest in our national parks as well as the broader community.

The National Parks and Wildlife Service Joint Management Custodians Network – comprised of representatives from each of the existing 33 joint management agreements – will play an important role in designing a new joint management model. The Network has been instrumental in advocating for an expansion of joint management.

Other key groups will include native title holders and claimants, the NSW Aboriginal Land Council, Native Title Services Corporation, and Aboriginal communities who have registered an interest in joint management.

The process will also include engaging effectively with the other stakeholders who use and value our national parks, including conservation groups, tourism bodies, local government and recreational users.

There will be 3 broad phases of consultation:

  1. Stage 1 will focus on understanding aspirations and issues
  2. Stage 2 will invite comment on a draft model developed based on feedback from Stage 1
  3. Stage 3 – a proposed model will be refined following Stage 2 and released for public comment).