Bininj/Mungguy healthy country indicators

As in other protected areas around Australia, staff and Traditional Owners in Kakadu National Park are committed to working together to protect the health of important values of Country. However, information has been limited on how to jointly assess the health of Country to guide effective co-management activities. To care for important areas, cross-cultural monitoring and evaluation frameworks need to be co-designed and trialled with Indigenous partners to develop appropriate measures of success, data-sharing processes and methods for identifying priority management actions.

This Indigenous-led action-research project focused on the development and trial application of Bininj and Mungguy healthy Country indicators in Kakadu National Park (Indigenous people are known as Bininj in the north of the park and Mungguy in the south; Bininj/Mungguy will be used from now on). The research project was governed by a Bininj/Mungguy steering committee made up of Traditional Owner representatives from all the clans across the park.

The steering committee chose two pilot areas where the project team worked with Bininj/Mungguy to undertake targeted field studies to identify Indigenous values and the indicators used to track the health of Country before and after agreed on-ground management activities. Under the direction of the steering committee and the Traditional Owners for Nardab and Jarrangbarnmi, five indicators were identified to assess sites and guide adaptive management of important landscapes within the jointly managed and Ramsar- and World Heritage Area-listed park.

The indicators were:

  • Country – health and abundance of bush tucker species
  • culture and community – community access, engagement, and connection to Country
  • economic – training and employment opportunities to care for Country
  • sharing Indigenous knowledge – between elders and young people on Country together
  • sharing science and Indigenous knowledge – research collaboration, activities and impact.

Together with Bininj/Mungguy Traditional Owners and rangers, the project team trialled an approach for monitoring and reporting on healthy Country indicators before and after agreed on-ground actions. Read on to find out how these indicators were used to monitor and evaluate weed management activities on the Nardab floodplain and landscape burning activities at Jarrangbarnmi (Koolpin Gorge).

This project:

  • identified Bininj/Mungguy indicators and methods that can be used to monitor and evaluate the health of country in Kakadu National Park
  • increased Bininj/Mungguy involvement in adaptive co-management and decisions
  • informed Kakadu National Park’s reporting efforts on natural resource management activities
  • contributed to improving cross-cultural monitoring and performance reporting approaches in protected areas.

Kakadu map

  • Kakadu Rangers have previously had to collect and compile all data manually, photo Microsoft.
  • Magpie geese have been an important indicator for one of this project's case studies, photo Microsoft.
  • Bininj/Mungguy Traditional Owners and Rangers will guide the choice of indicators and monitoring methods at each site, photo Michael Douglas
  • Monitoring of Bininj/Mungguy healthy country indicators will be done before and after on-ground actions, like spraying weeds on the floodplain, photo Jennifer Macdonald
  • The project will build on monitoring, evaluating and reporting efforts in Kakadu, photo Michael Douglas
  • Kakadu National Park, photo NESP Northern Hub.
  • Healthy country indicators and monitoring methods will be developed at each pilot site, photo Michael Douglas.