Stakeholder’s highlight the need for support for Aboriginal pastoralists in WA

Host: Department of Primary Industries and Regional Development — Aboriginal Business Development Project
Written by Daisy Goodwin, Development Officer

Around 30% of the northern Australian landmass is Aboriginal-owned and close to one third of the region’s population is Aboriginal. In this context Aboriginal people have a significant stake in the region’s development and economic future.

In Western Australia there are 55 Aboriginal-owned pastoral leases. Of these 30 are located in the Kimberley region totalling 6,522,762 ha with an estimated potential carrying capacity of 198,839 cattle units (cu). The Pilbara region has ten Aboriginal held pastoral leases with an area totalling 1,704,292 ha and an estimated potential carrying capacity of 25,047 cu.  There are a further 15 Aboriginal held leases in the Southern Rangelands (Murchison/Gascoyne/Goldfields) with a total area of 2,605,160 ha and a potential carrying capacity of 26,131 cu.

There is a lack of support for Aboriginal managed pastoral properties in WA. In response to this, multiple support service stakeholders have banded together to form the “WA Aboriginal Pastoral Support Alliance” (the Alliance). The Alliance is made up of eight stakeholders from two non-governmental groups, one federal commonwealth entity and two WA state government departments. Members met over two days in June to workshop a set of common goals, identify a strategic focus, and prioritise future directions.

Alliance members include:

  • The Department of Primary Industries and Regional Development Projects — Aboriginal Business Development (ABD), Rangelands, and Northern Beef Activities
  • The Department of Planning, Lands and Heritage Projects — Aboriginal Lands Trust (ALT) and Pastoral Land Unit (PLU)
  • The Aboriginal Land Corporation’s National Aboriginal Livestock Enterprise (NIPE)
  • Rangelands NRM
  • The Kimberley Pilbara Cattlemen’s Association (KPCA)

Alliance members at the Department of Primary Industries and Regional Development, Agriculture and Food office in Broome

The Alliance formed in response to multiple gaps in the support network available to Aboriginal pastoralists in WA. The lack of corporate governance support to Aboriginal corporations managing these stations was identified as a key issue. Without effective governance, properties are hindered in their efforts to manage, plan and develop the stations to their best potential. As a result, Aboriginal lessees struggle to maintain key infrastructure and keep up with bill payments, for example, leading to an increase in the number of properties at risk of non-compliance.

Support services in WA are trying to address these issues, though with limited resources it has been challenging. In response to this, the Alliance created a support framework that outlines the capabilities of each member. Building on this collaborative approach the Alliance was able to develop strategic objectives for the next 12 months. For example, two of the objectives agreed upon were to:

  • Assist the building of four Aboriginal properties to a supply chain or investment ready stage; and
  • Advocate for greater governance and development support for Aboriginal properties at risk of non-compliance.

The strategic objectives aim to provide support for Aboriginal pastoral properties at all stages from initial governance training to supply chain management beyond the gate.

Alliance members planning objectives for the coming year.

The Alliance has begun to plan its first steps for achieving these objectives. For example, the Kimberley Pilbara Cattlemen’s Association (KPCA) sending a letter to its networks advocating its support for the Alliance and the need for more governance and development support to Aboriginal pastoralists. Through their collaboration the Alliance aims to provide a much more extensive support network to Aboriginal pastoralists in WA.