This is an opportune time to strategically develop Indigenous land and sea management in Australia. Climate change and associated land degradation is a high priority component of the Government’s environment agenda. At the same time, the Indigenous estate—which includes some of the most biodiverse lands in Australia—continues to increase as a result of successful land and native title claims, and the declaration of more Indigenous Protected Areas. This paper explores government support for Indigenous land and sea management, focusing on the Commonwealth Government’s Working on Country program. The paper outlines the development of formalised Indigenous cultural and natural resource management. The emergence of the Working on Country program is discussed in the context of past and current policy. The opportunities and challenges for the future of the program and the development of formalised Indigenous land and sea management in Australia more broadly are outlined. In conclusion, a note of cautious optimism is expressed: while an expanded Working on Country program underpinned by community-led priorities and aspirations has the potential to simultaneously ameliorate Indigenous poverty and ensure natural resource management, this will require targeted investment and a more holistic and less sectoral approach from government.
Keywords: Indigenous cultural and natural resource management, Australian government support, Working on Country program.