For five years up to 2013 the Australian government is putting $40 million per year into Indigenous land management through programs like Working on Country and the Indigenous Protected Area program. There are two ways to know whether this is money well-invested. One is to monitor change that occurs as a result of that land management.
Attempts are being made to do this but many of the systems Indigenous people are managing - the northern savannas and the arid zone - change slowly and improvements are hard to detect.
Another way is to assess whether the Australian people feel they are getting value for their money. This is what I have done in a recent paper in the open access journal PLoS One: Read the paper here.
I surveyed over 1000 people around Australia on the relative value they put on Indigenous land management (part of my ARC project DP0987528). My research suggests that Australians are willing to pay a great deal more than they do currently for management of land by Indigenous people - up to 50 times more depending how you calculate it.
Over 70% of people surveyed said they would be willing to pay at least something into an Indigenous land management fund each year.
This is not to say that they would actually pay this amount - we did not put credit card details at the end of the paper to find out whether people would actually part with what they volunteered to pay in the questionnaires we distributed around Australia. However it does indicate strong approval for the policy.
There is a belief not only that this management should be undertaken - to reduce feral animal populations, control weeds, manage fire and assist with quarantine - but that Indigenous people should be funded to do the work. The benefits respondents to our questionnaire valued we will get are biodiversity conservation, improved recreational values.
In this survey there was not much appreciation of the benefits to Indigenous people themselves, apart from employment. This suggests there is still work to do to tell people about the improvements to health that arise when Indigenous people are actively involved in looking after their country, or the savings in health costs (Potential primary health care savings for chronic disease care).
In fact there are good arguments for using some of the health budget to support environmental management (Online Library: Healthy Country, Healthy People).