Walking and talking: towards community-based co-management of the Errk Oykangand National Park, Cape York Peninsula

Larsen, Kathryn A. (2012) Walking and talking: towards community-based co-management of the Errk Oykangand National Park, Cape York Peninsula. PhD thesis, James Cook University.

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This thesis is concerned with understanding how sustainable, resilient co-management systems are created. Berkes (see for example, 1997, p. 6) made the following assertion: "Very little scholarly work addresses, in my opinion, the key question: When is co-management feasible?" This research question has led to the identification of the key 'preconditions', or those critical aspects of capacity that support the negotiation and implementation of adaptive co-management (ACM) agreements.

This research was initiated and supported by the Oykangand people, Traditional Owners of the Mitchell-Alice Rivers National Park (MARNP), and the Kowanyama Aboriginal Land and Natural Resources Management Office (KALNRMO), in Cape York Peninsula, Queensland. The Traditional Owners required information to assist them to negotiate a partnership with the state's protected area management agency, Queensland Parks and Wildlife Service (QPWS). It was envisaged that such a partnership with the state could assist the Oykangand people to achieve their aspirations and lead to the effective community-based co-management of the MARNP.

The MARNP is a remote protected area located about 600 kilometres northwest of Cairns in the southwest of Cape York Peninsula. It is bounded to the west and north by Kowanyama-held lands, including the Kowanyama Deed of Grant in Trust (DOGIT) area and the pastoral lease properties of Oriners and Sefton. The 37,100 hectare MARNP was gazetted in 1977 after being excised from Koolatah Station without the knowledge or consent of the Oykangand people. In Cape York Peninsula, the creation of national parks has long been seen by Aboriginal people as a form of invasion and dispossession due to the manner in which many of them were originally created and the restrictions placed on hunting, fishing, the development of homeland centres and potential economic uses. Respected authors, academics and politicians now widely acknowledge that the present state of disadvantage in Australian Aboriginal communities and their dependence on welfare is directly related to their alienation or dispossession from much of their land.

This thesis provides a case study of the implementation of adaptive co-management (ACM) in the Australian protected area management context. ACM systems: 1. are flexible community based systems of resource management tailored to specific places and situations; 2. are supported by various organisations at different levels; 3. occur when organisational arrangements and ecological knowledge are tested and revised in a dynamic, ongoing, self- organised process of learning by doing or 'trial-and-error' (Folke et al., 2002; Folke, Hahn, Olsson, & Norberg, 2005).

ACM has significant merit for understanding co-management contexts where local and Indigenous people and their communities seek a role in the management of protected areas as the purpose of ACM is to 'foster ecologically sustainable livelihoods' (Plummer & Armitage, 2007b). This goal is consistent with the Oykangand peoples' core aspirations for their National Park homeland - to be recognised as the statutory owners and to integrate the management of the area into the functions of KALRNMO.

A methodological approach was developed to guide this research 'in', 'with' and 'for' the Kowanyama Community. Termed 'Indigenous Collaborative Action Research' (ICAR), the methodology was developed from Participatory Action Research, Community Action Research and Indigenist research principles. The principles were then refined in collaboration with the Kowanyama Community during fieldwork and during our efforts to develop a Research Agreement. The development and implementation of the Research Agreement and the development of the ICAR principles occurred concurrently, each informing the other in the manner of the classic 'Lewinian' Action Research cycle. The methodology was qualitative, with the main data collection phase occurring in Kowanyama during 2006 and 2007.

An evaluative or diagnostic framework was developed from the literature and proved to be a useful guide for the investigative process of this research. Ostrom's (2007) eight first-tier variables for analysing social-ecological-systems (SESs) were used as a means of drawing attention to the major themes or preconditions for adaptive co-management. The use of Ostrom's variables could allow for future comparison across cases and (eventually) the identification of causal links that help to build coherent theory on the co-management of SESs (Agrawal, 2001).

The development of the ACM Pyramid is the major theoretical contribution to the academic literature from this research. Identifying the preconditions is important because they either should already exist or be developed for the negotiation and implementation of ACM to be successful. The ACM Pyramid presents seven major themes that represent the preconditions for ACM in the MARNP in a loosely hierarchical order of importance. A 'resource valued' by both parties was found of principal importance and together with the 'recognition of the rights' of both parties to be involved in ACM, formed the base of the ACM Pyramid. Similarly, ACM would not proceed without the ability of the parties to identify a 'common or unifying purpose' for ACM and to form 'positive relationships' based on communication, respect and trust both internally within each party, between the parties and with an external network of supporters. There must also be 'willingness' by politicians to introduce formal legislation and policies to legitimise Traditional Owners' ownership and leadership in ACM and a flexibility to design an ACM agreement that is suited to their aspirations and capabilities. It is also critical that both parties have a 'focus', or consistent goals or objectives for ACM and a well-articulated understanding of how they intend to achieve them. The last precondition is for both parties to have the 'capability' to carry out ACM, particularly in terms of the human and financial resources required to implement the strategic and operational functions of the agreement.

The Oykangand people are a part of a community who began walking and talking towards self governance and resource co-management in the 1980s. Hence, efforts to establish community based ACM in the MARNP may be viewed as a continuation of the process of renewing rights and responsibility for Aboriginal lands and resources for the benefit of the Aboriginal residents of Kowanyama. It is proposed that the ACM Pyramid be used as a tool to assist the Oykangand people and QPWS to understand the prospects or feasibility of ACM in the MARNP and to identify any areas which require capacity-building effort. However, as the ACM Pyramid is derived from a single case-study it cannot be applied to other settings without careful consideration.

Item ID: 31190
Item Type: Thesis (PhD)
Keywords: Cape York Peninsula; co-management; Errk Oykangand National Park; Indigenous Protected Areas; Kowanyama
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Additional Information:

Publications arising from this thesis are available from the Related URLs field. The publications are:

Larsen, Kathryn A. (2005) Parks in crisis: an analysis of the resourcing and management of National Parks and other protected areas in Cape York Peninsula. Report. James Cook University, Townsville.

Date Deposited: 27 Feb 2014 00:00
FoR Codes: 05 ENVIRONMENTAL SCIENCES > 0502 Environmental Science and Management > 050201 Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Environmental Knowledge @ 50%
05 ENVIRONMENTAL SCIENCES > 0502 Environmental Science and Management > 050205 Environmental Management @ 50%
SEO Codes: 96 ENVIRONMENT > 9606 Environmental and Natural Resource Evaluation > 960605 Institutional Arrangements for Environmental Protection @ 50%
96 ENVIRONMENT > 9613 Remnant Vegetation and Protected Conservation Areas > 961309 Remnant Vegetation and Protected Conservation Areas in Sparseland, Permanent Grassland and Arid Zone @ 50%
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