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Co-management of national parks with traditional owners

Co-management in South Australia is a partnership between the state government and Aboriginal groups to help manage our national parks that combines traditional knowledge with contemporary park management.

In 2004 legislation was amended to include shared responsibility for the management of national parks and conservation parks with Aboriginal groups, through the creation of either a co-management board or a co-management advisory committee. Further legislation amendments were made in 2013 to extend co-management to wilderness protection areas.

View a list of boards and committees that have been created to co-manage our national parks and wilderness protection areas.

The co-management of parks plays an important role in advancing the reconciliation process and resolving issues relating to traditional land ownership. The involvement of Aboriginal people in the management of their traditional lands contributes to improved cultural site protection, maintenance of traditional practices that may have otherwise been excluded, and improved management of parks through the combination of traditional knowledge and contemporary science.
The co-management framework is a scheme where a park or wilderness protection area can be owned by:
  • the Aboriginal group and managed by a board
  • the Crown and managed by a board
  • the Crown with an advisory committee structure in place.
Co-management arrangements are established by agreement with the Aboriginal traditional owners and are often established with the determination of native title. Co-management agreements reflect specific natural and cultural aspects of the park and Aboriginal community, they also encompass four fundamental principles:
  • continued cultural, spiritual and traditional use of the park by the relevant Aboriginal group
  • continued enjoyment of the park by members of the public
  • preservation and protection of Aboriginal sites, features, objects and structures of spiritual or cultural significance
  • protection of natural resources, wildlife, vegetation and environmental features of the park.
There are now 12 co-management agreements in place over 35 of South Australia’s parks and reserves, covering 13.5 million hectares or 64% of the reserve system which equates to 13% of the land area of South Australia.

Each co-management agreement represents a willingness by both parties – the Aboriginal community and the government – to work together for mutually beneficial outcomes.

More information

The Strong People, Strong Country brochure tells the story of co-management in the voices of the Aboriginal traditional owners and the staff who work alongside them. This publication captures the detail and principles of co-management but also the passion and commitment of the people involved, it includes beautiful images of the people and landscapes at the heart of co-management.

For more information contact Jason Caire, Coordinator Co-management and Native Title.

Watch the video below to find out more.

Strong People, Strong Country