About nailsma ltd

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  • That the senior leadership within government departments support and encourage their regional staff to negotiate flexibly with Aboriginal regional and local environmental organisations over activities, targets and outcomes in an ongoing manner.

  • Government departments and regional Aboriginal organisations continue their firm emphasis on standard work practices and conditions for local environmental work groups. Insistence on standard work practices is a particular strength of the Working on Country program and this should be supported by mentoring, appropriate training stages at each level of the workforce, casual and part-time employment where necessary, and flexible provision for cultural leave.

  • Standard work practices should continue to be supported by mainstream standard levels of remuneration.

  • Major funders, such as SEWPaC should encourage local environmental management groups to expand their workforces and diversify their activities and sources of income.

  • Regional organisations such as the Kimberley Land Council and the Northern Land Council should be resourced to establish business units to assist local Aboriginal environmental groups to find seed funding and advice for country-based ecologically sustainable business ventures.

  • Recognising that Aboriginal groups bring a substantial unique resource to environmental management – their local practical and cultural knowledge transmitted through generations – maintenance and transmission of cultural knowledge should be encouraged as an important component of their work programmes.

  • Recognising the range and complexity of activities carried out by local Aboriginal environmental groups, seasonal constraints on the type of work they can perform, and the diversity of programs that they must report under, sophisticated yet user-friendly software and ICT equipment should be supplied to assist them in planning and reporting on their activities. As far as possible this should be standardised across localities, regions and jurisdictions.

  • NAILSMA is encouraged to open discussions with the Kimberley Land Council, the Kimberley Aboriginal Law and Culture Centre and relevant government departments, as well as Rangelands WA, to cooperatively work to re-establish a catchment management advisory committee for the Fitzroy River.


Supporting Indigenous Livelihoods 3

Appropriate Scales of Governance 3

Part One: Project Report 6

Executive Summary 6

Recommendations 6

Whole of Government and Sustainable Livelihoods 9

1.Project Outline 9

2.The Challenging Scope of the Project 10

3.Recent Analyses of Efficiency in CNRM 11

4.Jurisdictions 16

5.1 Commonwealth Government 16

5.2 State and Territory Government 19

5.3 Local Government 19

5.Adaptive Pragmatic Experimentalist Organisations 22

6.The Failure of Whole-of-Government Administration 25

7.The Benefits of Administrative Complexity 27

8.Accountability and Relational Contracting 28

9.Conclusion 31

10.References 32

Appendix One: Outline of Research Meetings and Contacts 35

Appendix Two: Research Outline Distributed 37

Part Two: Project Catchment Profiles and Literature Review 38

Project Catchment Profiles 38


Literature Review 67

Whole of Government and Sustainable Livelihoods

  1. Project Outline

This project was contracted to AIATSIS by NAILSMA and funded by the Commonwealth government’s Northern Australia Water Futures Assessment (NAWFA). It was carried out by Dr. Patrick Sullivan, an anthropologist and Senior Research Fellow at AIATSIS, with the assistance of Claire Stacey, a Senior Project Officer with AIATSIS. The project was first proposed in April 2010 following discussions between Michael Storrs of NAILSMA, Joe Morrison, NAILSMA CEO, and Joe Ross, Chair of the Northern Australia Land and Water Task Force. Because of personnel changes on both sides, the project did not progress until October 2011, and so has been constrained by compressed timelines. The choice of three widely separated river catchments as research sites – Mitchell River (QLD), Daly River (NT) and Fitzroy River (WA) – precluded fine-grained fieldwork within the timeframe. Nevertheless, visits to Aboriginal ranger groups and regional Aboriginal reference groups or representatives were made in each of the catchment areas.

Though limited, the impressions gained from these visits have informed background analysis of Indigenous public administration and Cultural and Natural Resource Management (CNRM) in this report. It first outlines the project and the challenges of location and topic. It then discusses the background to whole of government service delivery in Indigenous affairs and CNRM. This is followed by a description of the scales of Indigenous CNRM administration – local, regional, state, and national. The following sections of the report describe how complexity, volatility and diversity require adaptive eco-system management at the local and regional scales, within an accountability framework of relational contracting. These terms are discussed in the report. Rather than criticise the duplication and fragmentation of government programs, the report suggests administrative complexity may be supportive of these goals, providing Aboriginal organisations are equipped to deal with it.

At the start of the project a brief research outline was distributed to potential research participants (Appendix Two) that proposed that:

The project will focus on how well local governments, state governments and the Commonwealth government cooperate together to assist, encourage and support local self-management. If these three levels of government are not working well with the catchment management groups the project will try to understand why. At the end of the project recommendations will be made about how cooperation can be improved and how sustainable employment opportunities can be supported.

Additionally, the project will produce a report for NAILSMA and the participants that:

  • Describes the representative groups and networks for environmental management in the catchment or locality

  • Assesses the current ability of these representative groups and networks to actively manage land and water, influence policy, and control development

  • Assesses relevant government agencies and their ability to work together, and suggests improvements in their processes.

These aims have been achieved through reference to relevant literature illustrated with selected case examples. They could have been achieved with greater empirical detail if more time had been available for lengthy field work in each catchment location.
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