Living off the land in national parks: issues for Aboriginal Australians

Author/editor: Altman, JC, Allen, LM
Year published: 1991
Issue no.: 14


Aboriginal people resident in, or traditional owners of, national parks have highly variably legal rights to harvest subsistence resources. In the absence of common law rights to Indigenous resources, a wide range of Commonwealth, State and Territory laws often obfuscate these rights. This paper sets out to outline in some detail, mainly in an appendix, Aboriginal harvesting rights in national parks Australia-wide. It then focuses on the situation in the Northern Territory, Western Australia and Queensland, this northern emphasis being predicated on the observation that the subsistence sector is of greatest economic significance to Aboriginal communities in these regions. The paper then marshals available evidence on Aboriginal utilisation of floral and faunal resources in national parks, although some reference is also made to research that quantifies the economic contribution of subsistence in adjacent areas under Aboriginal ownership.

The paper then examines a range of subsistence-related issues, within the broader economic policy framework of the Aboriginal Employment Development Policy (AEDP). These issues include the impact of tourism on access to resources, income support options to facilitate subsistence, the compatibility of subsistence and commercial production, ecological sustainability, Aboriginal management, and the impact of introduced species and technology. The paper ends by identifying a number of policy dilemmas and makes some recommendations. The complex political economy of Aboriginal resource utilisation in national parks and the urgent need for accurate quantitative information on Aboriginal subsistence activities are highlighted in conclusion.

ISBN: 0 7315 1272 3

ISSN:1036 1774

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