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Australasian Plant Conservation

Originally published in Australasian Plant Conservation 19(4) March - May 2011, p 2-3

From the Editor

Rosemary Purdie
c/- Centre for Plant Biodiversity Research, Canberra

This issue of Australasian Plant Conservation focuses on the theme ‘Plant conservation on Aboriginal/Indigenous lands’. Many Indigenous communities have a direct role in land management (including plant conservation) through their responsibilities for land they hold under native title, various Land Rights regimes, and/or land included in the Indigenous Protected Area network. For other communities however, involvement in the management of their traditional country may be more indirect.

The Indigenous Protected Area (IPA) system makes a significant contribution to the conservation of Australia’s plant diversity. An IPA is defined as an area of Indigenous-owned or managed land (or sea) where Traditional Owners have entered into an agreement with the Australian Government to promote biodiversity and cultural resource conservation1. The communities are supported by the Australian Government to manage the IPAs for conservation to protect the plants, animals and cultural sites for the benefit of all Australians. Forty two Indigenous Protected Areas have been declared across Australia, covering almost 24 million hectares and comprising almost 25 per cent of Australia’s National Reserve System; their locations are shown on the map at <www.environment.gov.au/indigenous/ipa/map.html>.

Appropriate management of Indigenous Protected Areas is supported through the Australian Government’s Caring for our Country program, the objectives of which include:

  • to support Indigenous land owners to develop, declare and manage Indigenous Protected Areas on their lands as part of Australia’s National Reserve System;
  • to support Indigenous interests to develop cooperative management arrangements with Government agencies managing protected areas; and
  • to support the integration of Indigenous ecological and cultural knowledge with contemporary protected area management practices.

Each declared IPA is actively managed by its Indigenous owners, administered through an Indigenous organisation or land council. Their management relies on both traditional and western scientific knowledge, and day to day management includes weed and feral animal control, fire management, revegetation, protection of threatened species and monitoring.

Articles in this issue of Australasian Plant Conservation highlight a range of activities carried out in various parts of Australia on various types of land, including Indigenous Protected Areas in the Northern Territory, Queensland and New South Wales, to protect plant species. They also highlight the use of traditional Indigenous skills and knowledge and non-Indigenous scientific understanding and techniques to help achieve plant conservation.

Many of the articles give a sense of how plant conservation relates to and is part of traditional ‘Caring for Country’, and cannot be divorced from language and culture. This is highlighted in the first article (pages 3-5) in a ‘conversation’ between Traditional Owners from the Warddeken Indigenous Protected Area in Arnhem Land, Northern Territory, and non-Indigenous scientists.

The next two papers (pages 5-9) provide examples—from north-east Victoria and the Northern Rivers Region of New South Wales—of processes used to develop Indigenous/non-Indigenous partnerships aimed at land management supporting plant conservation. These and other papers in the issue highlight the fact that ‘no one size fits all’; partnerships need to be negotiated and developed according to the aspirations and needs of local Indigenous communities as well as non-Indigenous perceptions of plant conservation requirements. A common thread in such partnerships however is developing processes that facilitate knowledge sharing and building community capacity.

Subsequent papers (pages 10-23) give examples of plant conservation work being carried out in South Australia, the Northern Territory, Queensland and New South Wales. They include conserving particular types of plants, for example species used traditionally for food or medicine, as well as protecting species or ecological communities listed as threatened under national and state environment laws, and managing threats to, or restoring, particular vegetation types.

Most of the papers included in the issue highlight the importance of Indigenous knowledge in plant conservation. This is examined in more detail in the final article (pages 24-25) that describes a recent workshop specifically looking at how Indigenous knowledge about the cultural value of plants could be better supported.

The outcome is a proposed Indigenous-driven ethnobotany centre to be progressed in partnership with local western scientific institutions. Although focusing on tropical areas of Australia, it may well provide a model for other parts of the country.

Completing the issue is an article (pages 26-28) summarising some of the key plant conservation outcomes from the 10th Conference of the Parties (COP10) to the Convention on Biological Diversity held in October 2010 in Japan, and an update on ANPC in the USA (pages 28-29). The issue concludes with regular items: research roundup, two book reviews, useful information resources, and conferences and workshops.

This is my last issue as Editor of Australasian Plant Conservation; Selga Harrington will be taking over from issue 20(1). My thanks to past and present ANPC staff and Committee members who have helped ensure each issue appears on time. My thanks also to all those who have contributed articles over the last three years; keep them flowing in, and enjoy reading this issue.

1 Sources of information on Indigenous Protected Areas: www.environment.gov.au/indigenous/ipa/index.html;
www.environment.gov.au/indigenous/ipa/background.html; www.environment.gov.au/indigenous/ipa/envronmental.html

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