Innovative institutional design for sustainable wildlife management in the Indigenous-owned savanna

Author/editor: Altman, JC, Cochrane, MJ
Year published: 2003
Issue no.: 247


This paper examines a particular form of cooperative wildlife management on Aboriginal land in the tropical savanna of the Northern Territory, in the context of broader questions about governance. It asks how governance at the state, regional and local level can be designed to ensure sustainable development and real economic benefit for the region's long term Indigenous residents.

The economy in this region is hybrid, in the sense that it has customary, market and state components. The market sector is very small, and the state welfare sector correspondingly large. The customary sector, which has hitherto been generally ignored in policy discussions, is significant and offers the potential for growth through commoditisation of regional resources. The state's governance of economic resources, though regulatory property regimes, generally favours commercially powerful non-Indigenous interests and excludes both contemporary and future Indigenous interests. But simultaneously, and in marked contrast, local management of resources is based primarily on customary land ownership and Indigenously defined property rights.

Sustainable development will thus require hybrid institutions that accommodate and value the principles and practices of Indigenous resource management, while also recognising the benefits of broader regional governance. The paper identifies emerging best practice in wildlife harvesting that is founded on careful scientific assessments of sustainability, and argues for an approach to northern development based on sustainability and locally-controlled commercialisation. Future challenges include convincing governments and state agencies of the national benefits of this approach. Reform of governance to facilitate its rapid implementation is desirable, in the context of the relative poverty currently experienced by many Indigenous people.

ISBN: 0 7315 5622 4

ISSN:1036 1774

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