Indigenous land and sea management key to future of north Australia 


Prominent environmental scientist, Professor Stephen Garnett believes planners need to recognise the importance of Indigenous land and sea management in any future vision for north Australia.

Professor Garnett will play an integral role in tomorrow’s ABC North Australia Forum, Unlocking the Future, as he joins national and international leaders in their fields to explore six major themes currently affecting north Australia.

As Director of the School for Environmental Research at Charles Darwin University, Professor Garnett said he hoped the forum would bring out new ideas for the north’s future – and perhaps add a touch of realism to some of the wilder ambitions.

“The forum will provide Territorians with a chance to take part in a national conversation about Australia's vast north, a place of great diversity and potential for all Australians,” he said.

Professor Garnett pointed to reports from the 2020 summit earlier in the year as evidence that some potential investors in northern agriculture needed to do due diligence before committing superannuants’ funds.

“There are statements about making the north the ‘food bowl of Asia’ that simply don’t match the reality of the situation here,” he said.

“Certainly some tropical niche industries should be promoted but broad-scale cropping to replace production from the drying south is out of the question.

“Instead, we need to recognise the increasing importance of Indigenous people in the north’s future and support the emerging home-grown industry sector of land management where we have a natural advantage.”

North Australia is now central in any discussion about Australia’s future. From water, mining resources and Indigenous affairs, to population shifts or trade and relations with our Asian neighbours, Australia’s business was the north’s business, he said.

ABC's North Australia will be held on Tuesday 24 June at the new Darwin Convention Centre.