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Rangeland ecology and management

Applying the sustainable livelihoods approach in Australian desert Aboriginal development

Jocelyn Davies A D , Janelle White B , Alyson Wright C , Yiheyis Maru A and Michael LaFlamme A
+ Author Affiliations
- Author Affiliations

A CSIRO Sustainable Ecosystems, PO Box 2111, Alice Springs, NT 0871, Australia.

B Centre for Rural Health and Community Development, University of South Australia, Nicolson Avenue, Whyalla Norrie, SA 5608, Australia.

C Centre for Appropriate Technology, 32 Priest St, Alice Springs, NT 0870, Australia.

D Corresponding author. Email:

The Rangeland Journal 30(1) 55-65
Submitted: 8 June 2007  Accepted: 27 November 2007   Published: 1 April 2008


The sustainable livelihoods approach is widely used in rural development internationally but has been little applied in Australia. It is a framework for thinking and communicating about factors that impact on the livelihoods of individuals and families including their health, well being and income and the maintenance of natural resource condition. The approach aims to promote a systemic understanding of how multiple variables impact on local people’s livelihoods. Three case studies are outlined, that highlight its potential as a tool for collaborative engagement of researchers, local people and other stakeholders, to promote sustainability of Aboriginal livelihood systems in remote desert Australia and to contribute to improved understanding of the dynamics of regional socio-ecological systems.

Additional keywords: assets, disadvantage, indigenous, institutions, native food, vulnerability.


Case study contributions are from Alyson Wright (Engawala from the DKCRC Resource Flows project); Janelle White (Bush foods livelihoods from the DKCRC Bush foods project); Yiheyis Maru and Jocelyn Davies with Robyn Grey-Gardner and Hannah Hueneke (Anmatjere from the DKCRC Outback Livelihoods in Anmatjere region project). Ro Hill, Mark Stafford Smith and three anonymous referees provided useful comment that greatly improved drafts of this paper. The work reported in this publication was supported by funding from the Australian Government Cooperative Research Centres Programme through the Desert Knowledge CRC; the views expressed herein do not necessarily represent the views of Desert Knowledge CRC or its participants.


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