The Native Title Act 1993 specifically recognises Indigenous property rights in Indigenous species; if there is one legislative event that could alter Indigenous utilisation of wildlife in the future it is provisions in this statute. This legal framework means that Indigenous people may in the future hold property or resource rights not just over currently vacant Crown land, but also in national parks or pastoral leasehold land. Some threshold legal issues, currently before the Federal Court, will clarify the significance of native title for Indigenous utilisation of wildlife. In this paper the use of wildlife by Indigenous Australians is assessed from an economic perspective using a standard production function framework in which output is determined by the variable combination of three input factors - land, labour and capital. The assessment shows that wildlife use for subsistence purposes is clearly of economic importance. Although inequalities exist in relation to the allocation of land between States, under the Native Title Act 1993 and the operations of the Indigenous Land Corporation it is possible there will be a significant increase in the amount of land owned or available for use by Indigenous people. This may not only increase access to wildlife resources and provide opportunities for Indigenous people to add to their incomes, but also add to the growing recognition of their ability and right to participate in environmental management. However, Indigenous people will need continuing access to cash to underwrite a subsistence lifestyle. Informed debate is needed to decide whether Indigenous use of wildlife is an economic option worth supporting and what benefits and costs might accrue from such facilitation both for Indigenous people and the wider Australian community.
ISBN: 07315 17695