Natural Resources and Indigenous Livelihoods Course Intensive 24-28 November 2014.


Natural Resources and Indigenous Livelihoods Course Intensive 24-28 November 2014.

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Figure 1: ENV402 Class of 2014


Since 2005, RIEL staff have taught a unit titled “Natural Resources and Indigenous Livelihoods”. The unit is run over the summer semester period but the teaching is delivered as an intensive over five days – making it open to final year Bachelor of Science students, Masters of Environmental Management students as well as people working in government, the private sector, and not for profit organisations wanting to do the course for professional development. In previous years the intensive has been held in central Australia, Tennant Creek, Maningrida and now Darwin with a locally based day field trip component.

Topics covered during the course include: economic theory, sustainable livelihood assessment and development, governance of enterprises, policy contexts and the varied social, cultural, economic and ecological considerations in –establishing a commercial natural resource based enterprise. The course has a practical component by also covering topics such as assessment techniques, methods for engaging communities, and communication and marketing strategies. A specific focus was on the range of enterprises Indigenous people in Northern Australia are engaged in such as single plant and animal based enterprises, land and sea management activities and carbon farming. The course was delivered using a mix of techniques including lectures and presentations, videos, group discussions, guest lectures by experts from different disciplines and field trips The course aims to mix theory and practice using case study examples and through observations during the field trips.

In 2014 there were 11 students from the Master of Environmental Management and Batchelor of Science streams at CDU. One student was external from Macquarie University and three were international students from Tanzania and India. There were 7 professional participants from a range of organisations including a number of NT Government departments (Fisheries and Parks and Wildlife Commission); the Department of Primary Industry in Victoria, the Bardi Jawi Rangers in the Kimberley; and Torres Strait division of AFMA.

The co-lecturers were Julian Gorman (also course coordinator), Dr Natasha Stacey, and Professor Owen Stanley from the Research Institute for Environment and Livelihoods (RIEL) with invited speakers from RIEL including Dr Beau Austin, Postdoctoral fellow and Master’s students Mr Jose Quintas who also presented some results on community based tourism. Other speakers included RIEL partners including Keith Saalfeld from the Department of Land Resource Management, Micha Jackson and Glenn James from NAILSMA, Jay Evans from the Darwin Centre for Bushfire Management, Jaana Dielenberg who is the Knowledge Broker within from the National Environmental Research Program, School of Environment at CDU; Dr Shukla from the School of Business from CDU and others.

The first day provided an introduction to discipline of natural resource use and livelihood development and covered concepts, terminology and frameworks. This involved an introduction to natural resources and Indigenous people and a lecture on economic development theory by Owen followed by an overview of the Sustainable Livelihood Framework and its application by Natasha and Beau Austin (who used this framework to analyse the performance of a number of Indigenous natural resource based enterprises as part of his PhD). The day ended with a discussion of the five most important factors to consider in establishing a natural resource based enterprise. 

Figure 2: A breakaway discussion group
Figure 3: An outside breakaway discussion group

The morning session of the second day looked at the different factors to consider in commercialisation of natural resources including: policy and legislation; cultural and social issues; value chains, resources and infrastructure; company structures and governance; institutional and funding support; and cross cultural engagement. After lunch there were two guest speakers: Keith Saalfeld from Parks and Wildlife Commission of the NT gave a lecture on the Crocodile Industry - history, sustainability (Management Plan), markets; and Jose Quintas presented on community participation and planning for Community Based Eco Tourism in a  Timor Leste.

The third day involved a field trip to the Darwin Aquaculture Centre (DAC); the Noonamah Crocodile Farm and Fogg Dam. At DAC the students were given a tour of the Channel Island facility which is conducting research into a number of potential aquaculture ventures that have commercial potential including aquaponics, trepang and black tip oyster ranching, giant clams and clown fish for the aquarium industry, and others. The Tour of the Noonamah Crocodile Farm gave the class a better idea of the steps in framing crocodiles from collecting eggs in the wild through to salting and packaging skins to be sent overseas for further processing. The Fogg Dam trip looked at land management issues that need consideration in the wetlands and reviewed a project with Traditional Owners that Dr Penny Wurm is involved in looking at the feasibility of harvesting wild rice to commercial niche markets.

Figure 4: Trepang
Figure 5: The class at Windows in the Wetlands with TO, Lynette Kenyon

Field visits were conducted to learn about three different enterprises: crocodile farming (Darwin Crocodile Farm  – Hermes at Noonamah, 40 minutes south of Darwin, low technology aquaculture enterprises (NT Darwin Aquaculture Centre) and the Fogg Dam Wetlands with Traditional owners about their pilot survey to establish wild rice enterprise. The class visited the Nauiyu Community at Daly River which is a 2 hour drive south of Darwin. At Nauiyu Community we were hosted by Patricia Marrfurra and a number of other women at the Arts Centre where the class was given a practical and participatory introduction to the intricacies of fibre products through Fi Tours, a small Aboriginal ownedenterprise.  The students were introduced to the natural products used and processes involved in weaving baskets and other types of fibre art as well as the social, cultural and economic values associated with such an enterprise.


Figure 6: Students instructed on how to separate weave from the Merrepen (Livistonia) fronds

Overall there were 14 topics covered during this course and the combined experience of the lectures and the students allowed for very interesting learning and discussion. The participants themselves established a network that will prove to be extremely useful in their careers.

Participant’s evaluation on course showed the relevance and application of this unit in areas associated with Indigenous livelihoods and natural resource management both in Australia and elsewhere in the world. For further information contact

What the participants said:


‘The course gave me a lot of tools to work with in my work and future plans. I made good connections and met really interesting people. The best bit was the diversity of participants and perspectives. I loved the field trips, especially the trip to Nauiyu where I loved conversations with the local Indigenous people. I found the crocodile farm a bit confronting’

‘Great workshop! Lots of interesting content and interesting experiences brought by participants’

‘The overall programme was really fantastic and personally I was able to get lots of information regarding Indigenous livelihoods and natural resource based enterprise in the NT. Field trips were memorable and fruitful to the context’

‘I found the content of the course useful, informative, and the presenters very knowledgeable. Potentially more focus on the challenges and how to overcome them would be useful’

‘It was a fantastic learning experience for me, thank-you to the organisers. Not having a background in this area I wish I could have contributed more, but I learnt a lot. In hindsight I should have done it as a student because the assignments look really interesting. Definitely a worthwhile trip from Victoria!’