Beyond the local

20 October 2016

A Hub research collaboration between CSIRO and the Kowanyama Aboriginal Land and Natural Resource Management Office (KALNRMO) has uncovered the enormous social, economic and political benefits that Indigenous ranger programs can have beyond their local community.

The Indigenous cultural and natural resource management (ICNRM) sector has grown significantly in recent decades, delivering a great range of important benefits to the community where these programs are active.

However, senior CSIRO social scientist Marcus Barber says this is the first study that focuses systematically on the impacts of these programs beyond their local context, and particularly on impacts beyond the environmental outcomes for which they are primarily funded.

“Our research partnership generated a broader understanding of the cultural, social, political, economic and health and wellbeing benefits (also known as co benefits) of ICNRM, and how these outcomes beyond the local community scale can be generated and classified” Dr Barber said.

“Knowing the true value of these programs and how that value can be clearly conceptualised can assist local communities in working with governments to better design policy and make smarter investments in Indigenous communities into the future.”

The KALNRMO is based in Kowanyama in Southern Cape York and was the focus of the study. The community-owned and led organisation has operated for over 25 years and interacts with a diverse set of near neighbours in the Mitchell catchment and throughout Cape York, as well as with national and international collaborators.


KALNRMO Rangers at Shelfo Crossing, Mitchell River, credit: KALNRMO

“This long and successful history made KALNRMO an ideal case study of how an effective ICNRM agency can influence the wider world over time,” Dr Barber said.

“As part of the research we sourced and analysed evidence of past KALNRMO achievements and activities. We  also interviewed key individuals from relevant sectors (pastoral, research, NRM, Indigenous, etc.). This enabled a much clearer picture of the long term impact of this organisation beyond Kowanyama.”

The study highlighted how the key principles governing KALRNMO structures and operations were developed locally, but drew on Indigenous knowledge and experiences from elsewhere (including North America). In turn, KALNRMO had:

  • acted as a role model for many, much newer indigenous land management organisations
  • positively influenced the attitudes to ICNRM held by local pastoralists and catchment managers, and
  • influenced generations of researchers.

These cultural outcomes supported wider social outcomes – for example influencing the education system, and supporting wider processes of reconciliation. This social and cultural influence in turn underpinned political outcomes such as the wider recognition of Indigenous roles and responsibilities in land management, improvements in Indigenous resource rights, and the building of co-management partnerships by KALNRMO.

“KALNRMO has a long and proud history of working with the Traditional Owners of Kowanyama to protect environmental and cultural values for the entire indigenous community, and for Australia as a whole,” Current KALNRMO Land and Sea Manager Chris Hannocks said.

Using the long term success of KALNRMO, this collaborative research project shows how ICNRM organisations can have a range of beneficial cultural, social, political, health, and economic outcomes beyond the local communities in which they operate.

You can read more examples of the wider benefits of KALNRMO in a detailed technical report on the research here.

This project complements another project conducted simultaneously with the Yirralka Rangers in Arnhem Land, which focused on the co-benefits of ICNRM accruing with a local community. You can read more here.

Top photo: KALNRMO Ranger with motorcycle travellers, Mitchell River, credit: KALNRMO



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