Walking together in managing our parks

Date: Jan 25, 2023

Publication Type: Blog

Subject: Newspaper

Since the first agreement over Territory parks 30 years ago at Nitmiluk— between Traditional Owners and the NT Parks and Wildlife Commission—there has been little coordinated planning, often poor management, and mixed government response to Aboriginal peoples inclusion to park management.

In late August, the NLC Joint Management Forum sought a more effective way forward. 

The Forum brought together Traditional Owners representing all the Parks and Reserves in the NLC’s region under joint management. The Forum was also attended by senior staff from the Parks and Wildlife Commission. 

It provided an opportunity to reset the relationship between Joint Management partners. It was the first time Traditional Owners were directly consulted about the draft Parks Masterplan, a 30-year vision for the Parks. NLC Chairman, Mr Bush-Blanasi opened the Forum by stating that only by “walking together” can true joint management be achieved. He stressed that the partnership cannot repeat the Walking together in managing our parks mistakes of the past. 

Caring for Country Joint Management Forum group, Katherine

Traditional Owners shared their experiences of what has and hasn’t worked well in partnership with NT Parks, and had many ideas on how park management and how it could be improved. This includes flexible employment and time on country with family, respect for Aboriginal decision-making and training in governance, cultural awareness an involving the next generation in the joint management process. 

Traditional Owners were frustrated with poor communication, lack of consultation, support and resources for joint management committees. Everyone agreed that joint management is difficult but worthwhile, yet a lot needs to change to make it really work. 

Representatives from Judbarra/Gregory and Keep River National Parks

Executive Director of Parks, Ms Sally Egan, attended the Forum. She said the Northern Territory Government is developing a new Masterplan that will provide a clear long-term vision for the future of the Territory’s parks and reserves for the next 30 years. 

She announced that more funds will be available for joint management partners. Traditional Owners emphasised the need to be brought along at all stages of park management, including decisions on how this new money is spent. 

Based on feedback, the NLC has written a submission on the draft Parks Masterplan, available at the NLC website. The submission lists a number of recommendations, including the development of an Aboriginal regional governance group that has a voice to Parks decision makers and the Minister. 

The key message from the forum was the need for Traditional Owners and NT Parks to walk together to care for country for the benefit of current and future generations