Our Plan for Cultural Connection
Cultural Connections is one of the two overarching themes within the Wet Tropics Plan for People and Country, influencing, and influenced by, each of the Regional Themes.
Feedback from Traditional Owners identified a need for maintaining and enhancing group capacity and skills, to enable and empower Aboriginal people to develop opportunities to work on Country, share knowledge and derive social and economic benefits from this. In addition, meaningful partnerships between Traditional Owner groups and the broader NRM community for effective natural and cultural resource management was consistently identified as a priority at both a regional and local level.
Our Plan for Cultural Connections is based on extensive engagement about:
- The challenges preventing us from achieving our Cultural Connection Goal
- The opportunities that may assist us in achieving our Cultural Connection Goal
- The priority actions that we should put in place to address the challenges and also make the most of the opportunities
1. We will influence policy and planning frameworks to ensure Traditional Owner rights and interests in natural and cultural resource management are recognised and supported to provide positive outcomes for the environment and Aboriginal people.
Challenges: The complexity of Traditional Owner societies, the strong connection of local people to their Country and the Native Title framework means there are many clans and groups, each with similar issues and challenges, but often operating independently. While many voices have been calling for more inclusive policies which recognise and involve Traditional Owners in planning and management of Country, a strong, united voice may be more successful in progressing this further.
Opportunities: There are many strong, effective Traditional Owner groups working hard to ensure the systems, processes and policies are in place to support meaningful involvement of Indigenous people in managing the Wet Tropics natural and cultural resources. Many stakeholders, including local, state and federal government organisations, already have policies and mechanisms in place to engage and work proactively with Traditional Owner groups. The benefits of active involvement of Traditional Owners in NRM is widely recognised as providing multiple benefits to the environment, Traditional Owners and other stakeholders, and this is now becoming more widely reflected in policy.
Priority actions focus on ensuring that a compelling story is being told at the political level. The establishment of a regional body to provide a coordinated and strategic message at the political level would improve higher level representation of Traditional Owner rights and interests, resulting in more certainty around funding and economic development.
2. We will work collaboratively with all stakeholders, including Traditional Owners, to undertake adaptive planning and management of our natural and cultural resources, focusing on raising the profile of cultural values and improving integration of cultural and natural resource management.
Challenges: The strong and enduring connection Aboriginal people have with country, resulting from the cumulative knowledge of generations past, brings with it a deep understanding of the environment and management requirements. However, a legacy of limited funding opportunities, corresponding with reduced capacity within groups, has historically made it difficult for some groups to be as active and effective as possible in their efforts to protect and manage natural and cultural resources.
Opportunities: There is an ever-increasing number of successful, high-achieving groups managed by skilled Traditional Owners, providing valued and vital services to the management of our region’s natural and cultural resources. Collaborative, effective partnerships are continually developing between Traditional Owners and the broader NRM community, resulting in sharing of knowledge and skills. These networks result in a snowballing effect, providing a good foundation for even more groups to make the most of the skills and knowledge within our region to achieve good natural and cultural resource management outcomes.
Priority actions focus on ensuring Traditional Owners have the capacity and opportunities to work on Country, sharing knowledge and skills with other stakeholders.
3. We will respect and action the desire of Traditional Owners who wish to be more meaningfully involved in natural and resource management projects in their community and country from the planning stage through to implementation.
Challenges: Within Traditional Owner societies, there is a strong connection between environmental health and social wellbeing. Threats to the natural and cultural resources within the region are identified as a grave concern, with Traditional Owners consistently calling for better partnerships with community and government in the region. Although in many circles there is interest in engaging meaningfully with Traditional Owners, many people are unaware how to go about this, and in some cases they simply don’t invest the time and effort to build the relationships that are fundamental to strong partnerships.
Opportunities: The Rainforest Aboriginal People of the Wet Tropics have an enduring connection with the plants and animals of the region and to them, culture and environment are one. Traditional Owners not only have traditional rights to being part of all aspects of caring for country, but they have a lot of value and knowledge to bring to projects. There are already some excellent examples of the benefits of involving Traditional Owners in project development and delivery, from which we can all learn.
Priority actions focus on promoting and communicating cultural values and establishing more effective ways to engage Rainforest Aboriginal People in natural resource management.
4. We will secure sustained and diverse resourcing to improve opportunities for Traditional Owners to be meaningfully involved in planning and active management of natural and cultural resources within the Wet Tropics.
Challenges: Government investment in natural and cultural resource management is always highly contested and is often short-term, with many conditions. The challenge of securing sustained and long term funding for this work is an issue faced by most groups within the sector. It is more important than ever to pool our resources and collaborate effectively to ensure the best bang for our buck.
Opportunities: We need to seek opportunities for alternative sources of funding such as through carbon investment, philanthropy, corporate social responsibility and crowd funding. The inclusion in 2012 of Indigenous heritage values with the World Heritage listing of the Wet Tropics provides national and international recognition of the cultural values of the area, enhancing the opportunities for alternative and innovative funding sources.
Priority actions focus on identifying novel funding opportunities and working together to ensure we are making the most out of what we already have. In addition, business and tourism opportunities arising from working on Country could provide more sustainable funding and employment.
5. We will work to ensure our community places high value on the cultural heritage values of our region and is actively involved in its protection.
Challenges: Identification and promotion of the region’s cultural heritage values can be complicated, with many significant cultural heritage sites too culturally sensitive to widely publicise. Even for more public sites, making the transition from broad community understanding and recognition of their cultural heritage values, into active involvement in the management and protection of these assets, is an issue to be resolved.
Opportunities: There is a proud and strong Indigenous culture within our region, with many groups actively involved in managing and promoting their culture to the wider community. There are some excellent partnerships in place, particularly regarding the management of World Heritage listed areas, with good interpretation of Indigenous culture. With ongoing and collaborative planning, protection and communication of the significant cultural heritage values of the region, we can increase the community’s understanding and appreciation of these areas.
Priority actions focus on making cultural information more accessible through good collection, management and promotion of relevant cultural heritage information.
For a more detailed list of priority actions identified for Cultural Connections, click on the Priority Actions menu button.