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Aboriginal joint management of parks

NSW Office of Environment and Heritage

The NPWS acknowledges that the Indigenous peoples of Australia are the original custodians of the lands and waters, animals and plants of NSW and its many and varied landscapes. The NPWS staff statement of reconciliation gives a commitment to invite greater involvement of Aboriginal communities in the management of all areas under NPWS control. The NPWS has endorsed the statement and have undertaken to incorporate these commitments in all dealings with Aboriginal communities and future heritage and conservation initiatives.

One way to do this is through Aboriginal joint management of national parks, reserves and other areas. Under an Aboriginal joint management arrangement, the government and local Aboriginal people share responsibility for a park's management. The aim is to ensure that Aboriginal people have the opportunity to participate in planning and decision making for the park, reserve or area, while maintaining access to parks for everyone.

Co-management or joint management?

The World Parks Congress and the International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN) both recognise a range of governance types for protected areas, with joint management being one. The IUCN 2004 Guidance on policy and practice for joint managed protected areas and community conserved areas defines joint management as government-designated protected areas where decision-making power, responsibility and accountability are shared between governmental agencies and other stakeholders, in particular indigenous peoples and local and mobile communities who depend on that area culturally and/or for their livelihoods.

To reflect that international term the Office of Environment and Heritage (OEH) has been using the term co-management over the last five years. However OEH recognises that many Aboriginal communities consider the term 'joint management' to be more appropriate. This has been raised particularly in relation to Aboriginal ownership and lease-back arrangements, given the statutory role of the board of management for the care, control, management and Aboriginal ownership of the land, and this was the term used when the legislation was introduced to parliament. OEH recognises Aboriginal joint management has also historically been used to describe arrangements established under memoranda of understanding and indigenous land use agreements, such as the Mungo MOU and Arakwal ILUA.

At their meeting in June 2009 the chairs of the co-managed parks recommended that OEH should refer to joint management rather than co-management. This change is now reflected in these web pages in most areas except for those events which were historically known as co-management at the time, such as the 2006 Aboriginal co-management meeting.

Aboriginal Joint Management Network

The Aboriginal Joint Management Network is a network of Aboriginal people involved in joint management of parks. These pages also include information on the Joint Management Custodians of NSW - the representatives of the Aboriginal Joint Management boards of management and committees who meet regularly to discuss joint management issues.

Potential benefits of Aboriginal joint management

See how joint management can advantage Aboriginal communities, biodiversity conservation, park visitors and the NPWS.

Which parks are jointly managed in NSW?

See a map, find out what joint management arrangements are in place and get more information on specific parks.

Aboriginal people's relationship with their country

The lives and spirituality of Aboriginal people are linked to the land, giving them a special relationship with their local parks and reserves. Read statements from Aboriginal custodians about their relationship with their country.

How does Aboriginal joint management of parks work?

Local Aboriginal communities and the NPWS can work together in many areas of park management. Find out more.

Aboriginal joint management options

These include memoranda of understanding, indigenous land-use agreements, lease-back agreements or more informal arrangements with the NPWS.

Proceedings of the 2006 Aboriginal joint management meeting

As a conseqence of Aboriginal people sharing in the management of a significant and increasing number of national parks across NSW, 140 people - including representatives from 19 Aboriginal communities and the then Department of Environment and Climate Change (now known as Office of Environment and Heritage) from around the state - met in Wentworth and Mungo National Park in April 2006. Read about the proceedings of this meeting.

Joint management agreements currently under negotiation

Get more information on areas where joint management agreements are currently being negotiated with local Aboriginal communities.


Read some of the newsletters for Aboriginal joint management of parks.

Page last updated: 11 September 2012

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