This paper examines the social benefits of Aboriginal engagement in natural resource management (NRM) in New South Wales (NSW). It first explores what may be meant by Aboriginal engagement in NRM and then outlines the NSW policy context in which that occurs. Before examining the social benefits evident in NSW, the paper reviews the literature on social benefits emerging internationally and in other Australian jurisdictions. Returning to NSW, the paper outlines the scope of Aboriginal involvement in natural resource management across the state, on Indigenous-owned land, public lands and private land. It also explores opportunities which native title claims have provided to date, Aboriginal involvement in threatened species management, and briefly canvasses issues relating to in relation to water rights as well as sea country, forestry and pastoral industries and the sustainable use of wildlife. The paper then identifies the range of socio-economic benefits emerging in NSW from these activities, among them cultural and spiritual, social, economic, environmental and capacity building benefits, with a number of valuable case studies that illustrate the way these are combined in each unique location. The final sections of the paper canvass a range of opportunities for strengthening Aboriginal engagement in cultural and natural resource management, generating greater social benefits as a result; the paper presents a number of specific recommendations for action.
Janet Hunt is a Fellow, Jon Altman is Director and ARC Australian Professorial Fellow, and Katherine May is a Research Officer at the Centre for Aboriginal Economic Policy Research (CAEPR) at The Australian National University, Canberra.