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Article << Previous     |         Contents Vol 37(3)

Support for Indigenous wildlife management in Australia to enable sustainable use

George R. Wilson A B, Melanie J. Edwards A, Jennifer K. Smits A

A Australian Wildlife Services, 51 Stonehaven Crescent, Deakin, Canberra, ACT 2600, Australia.
B Corresponding author. Email: george.wilson@awt.com.au
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Wildlife managers could play a greater role in ensuring that Indigenous wildlife harvesting is sustainable and helping to address community health and employment challenges facing Indigenous Australians in remote and rural areas. Wildlife managers need to listen more to what Indigenous people say they want from their country and for their people, such as increased game to supplement their diet and security for totemic species, to maintain culture. In pre-colonial Australia, adherence to customary law maintained wildlife species Indigenous Australians wanted. Today the long-term sustainability of Indigenous wildlife harvesting is threatened. Where Indigenous communities lack leadership and other social problems exist, their capacity to apply customary land-and sea-management practices and to operate cultural constraints on wildlife use is reduced. The Indigenous right to hunt should coexist with responsible management.

Improved wildlife management that combines science and traditional knowledge has implications for Indigenous people worldwide. Western science can support Indigenous passion for caring for the land. It can draw on traditional Indigenous practice and, through reciprocal learning, help reinstate Indigenous law and culture in communities. In Australia, wildlife managers could be more engaged in supporting Indigenous Australians in activities such as surveying populations and estimating sustainable yields, identifying refuge areas, maximising habitat diversity, controlling weeds and feral animals, and exchanging information across regions.

Although support for Indigenous land and wildlife management has risen in recent years, it remains a minor component of current Australian Government resource allocation for addressing Indigenous need. Wildlife management could be a stronger focus in education, training and employment programs. Proactive wildlife management conforms to both the western concept of conserving biodiversity and Indigenous wildlife management; it can support sustainable harvesting, provide employment and income, create learning and training opportunities and improve Indigenous health. If greater expenditure were directed to Indigenous wildlife management, wildlife managers, especially Indigenous wildlife managers, could become more engaged in cultural initiatives across traditional and scientific practices and so contribute to programs that address the health and motivational challenges facing Indigenous communities.

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