Recognising culturally significant entities 

Project start date: 01/10/2023
Project end date: 30/09/2025
NESP funding: $481,000

Indigenous Australians conceived and developed this project to highlight the importance of meaningful and collaborative management of culturally significant entities. Culturally significant entities are species and ecological communities of cultural significance to Indigenous Australians. At present there is no consistent national definition of a culturally significant entity. This means they are not considered by policy-makers and biodiversity conservation practitioners in the same way as other entities, such as threatened species.

Red kangaroo on a dry grassy plain looking up at the camera.
Red Kangaroo, Flinders Ranges National Park, South Australia. Photo Luke AdobeStock.

We are establishing a definition for culturally significant entities. This will involve proposing an approach to recognise them in national legislation, policy and strategic-planning mechanisms. We’re also devising mechanisms for governments and researchers to support Indigenous-led nominations of priority culturally significant entities at a place-based scale.

A theoretical scenario of western and Indigenous perspectives on select species, how these perspectives inform current management strategies and how they could inform possible future management arrangements. Image: Stephen van Leeuwen/Haylee D’Agui.

Though the relationship of a culturally significant entity to other species in the landscape can be complex, the cultural importance of all species and communities should be considered in the development of conservation strategies.

We are highlighting the importance of collaborative and Indigenous-led management of culturally significant entities in biodiversity conservation. This will enable the subsequent empowerment of Indigenous-led place-based decision-making to inform conservation planning.

Key research areas

To address these challenges, this project is:

  • describing a national Indigenous-led definition of culturally significant entities and biocultural objectives and measures for these entities
  • supporting national policy and program development and reforms for the recognition of culturally significant entities
  • developing awareness of culturally significant entities nationally through case studies from across Australia and across a variety of species and ecological communities
  • improving the inclusion of Indigenous knowledge in and informing the nomination, listing, assessment, and conservation planning process for threatened species and ecological communities
  • improving regional planning and environmental impact assessment processes.