Indigenous communities play a crucial role in Australian conservation for a number of reasons – the first being that numerous threatened species live
on lands they own and manage.
“Indigenous communities are highly motivated to engage in threatened species management as long as management activities align with their efforts to sustain on-country enterprises and care for their community and country,” says Dr Cathy Robinson from CSIRO who co-leads the TSR Hub’s project 6.2.
Co-leader Professor Stephen Garnett also recognises the importance of using the knowledge of Indigenous communities to help protect threaten species
“It’s really about building knowledge collaboratively and coming to a shared understanding of which species and habitats we care most about collectively and want to invest our attention in, and how we can best co-manage the threats,” says Professor Garnett.
Dr Cathy Robinson says work continues on building consensus.
“In some places we’ve got agreed priorities and effective partnerships, but not in others. For example in some parts of Australia Indigenous communities highly value a totemic species not on the national threatened species list. In other places species that are a national priority may not be a priority for local Indigenous groups,” says Dr Robinson.
“We also need to be aware that some of these Indigenous communities are dealing with some serious livelihood, cultural and social issues on a day to day basis, which needs to frame the goals and pathways for threatened species collaboration. Threatened species programs in these cross-cultural contexts may need to consider a range of Indigenous benefits that can be delivered through conservation efforts.”
Landscape burning offers a key activity that is a crucial aspect of Australia’s threatened species strategy and Indigenous knowledge and land management systems.
“Fire is both a threat and a saviour to our threatened species. Inappropriate burning poses a key risk for threatened species but appropriate burning is vital to improving their habitat,” says Dr Robinson.
“Indigenous fire knowledge, burning practises and cross-cultural partnerships are a key focus of this research.
“The identification of the source and design of incentives for Indigenous landholders to become involved in threatened species conservation is also an area of focus of this work.
“Working with Indigenous fire practitioners and partners we want to explore if, and how, we can build on-country fire enterprises that not only conserve threatened species but also sustain Indigenous livelihoods, knowledge and land management systems.”
The project builds on a one year review of Indigenous fire knowledge and partnerships across Northern Australia. This is led by Dr Robinson under the NESP Northern Hub.
“It is clear that diverse incentives and partnerships exist across Australia. Indigenous groups are working with park rangers to retain the values of protected areas, corporations want carbon offsets and environmental NGOs want to sustain contemporary landscapes,” says Dr Robinson.
“Research in the threatened species hub won’t just be in Northern and remote areas, we’ll also consider fire management issues in southern parts of Australia with Indigenous communities who are working across multiple tenures.
“By partnering with other fire managers we can build knowledge and management expertise on both sides, and become better equipped to manage areas across multiple tenures and habitats with benefits for threatened species.”
Image credit: Bushfire_by eyeweed (FlickrCCBYSA2)
Karajarri Rangers are leading a Threatened Species Recovery Hub research project to investigate how different fire management approaches affect biodiversity. The first field trip took place in April this year, when a team of 16 rangers, support staff and scientists journeyed to the Edgar Ranges for eight days of wildlife monitoring. Hub researcher Sarah Legge worked with the rangers to compile this report from the field.
Cissy Gore-Birch is a member of the Threatened Species Recovery Hub’s steering committee and the Chair of its Indigenous Reference Group. The Indigenous Reference Group was established to assist hub leaders and project teams to strengthen the engagement and participation of Indigenous people in the hub’s activities and research projects. Cissy recently attended the Species of the Desert Festival on the Paruku Indigenous Protected Area, where she spoke about both threatened and culturally important species, and increasing the voice of Indigenous people in environmental policies and research.
Dr Sally Box, the Australian Government’s Threatened Species Commissioner, talks about the importance of working with Indigenous groups to conserve Australia’s threatened species.
Researchers from the Threatened Species Recovery Hub are calling on citizen scientists to help them learn more about Australia’s possums and gliders by recording sightings in a new, free app. Dr Rochelle Steven from the University of Queensland is passionate about Australia’s possums and gliders and believes people in the community can do a lot to help support conservation, especially in urban areas.
There are 27 different types of possums and gliders in Australia. They have a huge variety of sizes, shapes and appearances. We’ve compiled a profile on every species here. One quarter of our possums and gliders are listed as threatened under Australian environmental law. Help their conservation, be a citizen scientist: you can record sightings of possums from your local areas in the free 'CAUL Urban Wildlife App'.