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The Australian National University

The environmental significance of the Indigenous estate: Natural resource management as economic development in remote Australia

Discussion Paper 286 / 2007


This discussion paper explores the geography of the Indigenous estate, its environmental significance, and some of the innovative approaches adopted by Indigenous landholders to protect the natural and cultural values of their land. A number of maps are used to explore the environmental significance of the Indigenous estate. These maps indicate that the Indigenous estate—making up 20 per cent of the Australian land mass—covers vast areas of relatively intact land. The Indigenous estate contains some of the highest conservation priority lands in Australia. Emerging recognition of the environmental significance of the Indigenous estate is indicated by a number of Commonwealth-funded programs that represent a form of payment for environmental services (PES). Such programs provide important employment opportunities for Indigenous people living in some of the remotest parts of Australia, areas far from mainstream labour markets. Environmental service provision might provide alternate development opportunities on the Indigenous estate beyond standard private sector industries like mining, tourism and pastoralism, or publicly-funded provision of standard municipal services.

Note: High resolution versions of the maps from this discussion paper are available as separate document. 


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