Academic journal article Australian Aboriginal Studies

From Boardroom to Kitchen Table: Shifting the Power Seat of Indigenous Governance in Protected Area Management: Tebrakunna Country

Academic journal article Australian Aboriginal Studies

From Boardroom to Kitchen Table: Shifting the Power Seat of Indigenous Governance in Protected Area Management: Tebrakunna Country

Article excerpt

Abstract: Indigenous governance in Australia is determined by connections to country and enacted through family structures. Often unrecognised and/or inappropriately treated through non-Indigenous policy structures that govern protected areas and Indigenous-owned lands, Indigenous peoples on representative boards, councils and committees find themselves in opposition to Western governance systems. This often results in perceptions of governance dysfunction and conflicts of interest, while delegitimising kinship and family structures. This paper discusses the growing questions surrounding how Indigenous governance is framed by interrogating the formal mechanisms where Indigenous and non-Indigenous governance is discussed and influenced. We reflect on critical information gaps that are required to be filled to ensure equity among actors in land and sea management.

Introduction

Indigenous (2) governance in protected area management is an emergent area within the broader context of Indigenous engagement in looking after country. Indigenous governance structures have been restored, through protected area management regimes, to hold decision-making power and authority over traditional lands. However, this restoration is neither complete nor entirely in accordance with the values and priorities of Indigenous peoples. For example, the maturation of Indigenous Protected Areas (IPAs) as a formal management mechanism has fuelled the growth of corporate and committee structures in order to represent distinctive cultural groups.

The lands under IPA management constitute about 40 per cent of the Australian national reserve system, or 7.5 per cent of the entirety of the Australian protected area estate, and contribute to Australia's overall ability to meet its commitment under the Convention on Biological Diversity's Aichi targets to protect terrestrial and marine areas (Bertzky et al. 2015; CAPAD 2014; Smyth 2006). These forms of protected areas are diverse and validated through 'recognisable' non-Indigenous governance mechanisms, where ownership is expressed through formal tenure arrangements, majority membership on shared governing boards, and ongoing communication and collaboration with non-Indigenous parties and agencies. With Indigenous peoples reclaiming governance authority and legitimacy through land rights and formal and informal collaborative management--such as IPAs and collaborative and joint management arrangements; corporatisation and corporate representation (such as Prescribed Bodies Corporate, land rights Aboriginal corporations and ranger-based programs); compensation and comprehensive land claims (such as the Noongar native title settlement); and private and government purchases of the Indigenous estate--there are nascent questions about how current governance structures reproduce non-Indigenous institutions.

Indigenous governance has been poorly understood, and articulated and inappropriately mapped and, often, Indigenous Australians are forced into governance arrangements that are primarily designed for non-Indigenous peoples (Bauman et al. 2015). Australia's targets under the Convention on Biological Diversity create a new space to examine Indigenous governance of protected areas, particularly differing power relations that 'shape the way in which transnational environmental governance translates into material practice' (Corson and McDonald 2012:266) --hence, Australian protected areas are influenced by conflicting international drivers. Between the Fifth World Parks Congress (WPC) in Durban, South Africa, 2003, and the Sixth WPC in Sydney, 2014, once shunned, extractive industry companies were now welcomed, while the Promise of Sydney (the statement of WPC outcomes) explicitly noted that conservation is failing in respect of these partnerships (WPC 2014a). Likewise, in 2003 good governance was viewed within the existing International Union for the Conservation of Nature and Natural Resources (IUCN) matrix of non-Indigenous forms, while the Promise of Sydney found there is greater scope for Indigenous governance to be recognised and legitimated. …

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