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Priorities for Terrestrial Conservation in Australia

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The Australian Committee for IUCN (ACIUCN) and its partners are pleased to present the new publication Maintaining Australia’s Natural Wealth: Priorities for Terrestrial Conservation.

This new statement recognizes that with the environment continues to face critical threats. There is an urgent need to reprioritize broad, long-term, multi-partisan support for the protection of our environment and to secure it as a major national priority.

The Statement covers a series of important policy recommendations, from strong action on climate change; revitalising the National Reserve System and connectivity principles; reforming environmental laws and strengthening support for science and Indigenous knowledge; to valuing nature as Australia’s natural capital and a critical component of a strong Australian economy.

This publication is the output of the 2016 Science Informing Policy Symposium, held in partnership with the IUCN World Commission on Protected Areas; the Fenner School of Environment & Society, Australian National University; the Australian Conservation Foundation and the Commonwealth Department of the Environment and Energy. It was developed with input by over 130 conservation professionals from governments, NGOs and academic institutions at the symposium.

The event was generously supported by The Thomas Foundation, with layout and design provided by the South Australian Department of Environment, Water and Natural Resources.

The publication provides decision makers with science-based and independent information to inform better policy.

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Excerpt: The Statement’s purpose

This Key Directions Statement was developed by over 130 individuals with diverse conservation interests and knowledge from universities, research institutions, government agencies and non-government organisations who attended the Maintaining Australia’s Natural Wealth: Priorities for Terrestrial Conservation Symposium in July 2016, the sixth in the ACIUCN Science Informing Policy Symposium Series. The Statement complements the key policy directions of the 2012 Australia’s Marine Environment: Progress, Challenges and Opportunities Symposium which addressed priorities for Australia’s marine environment.v

Participants embraced a vision for the restoration of Australia’s investment in its natural wealth through an enduring and multi-partisan commitment to activate long-term partnerships connecting people and country for conservation and sustainable management across land and seascapes. The Symposium acknowledged the recent demonstration in the Australian National Outlook 2015 report, that it is possible with careful planning to restore the environment without undermining economic prosperity. A healthy, diverse and functional natural environment is not an alternative to a thriving economy but a prerequisite for a sustainable nation.vi

The intentions of this Statement are to:

  • Inspire and revitalise broad and multi-partisan support for the protection of Australia’s environment across all policy and decision makers, planners and civil society.
  • Recognise that Australia’s leadership in environmental policy has delivered many environmental, social and economic benefits and that this leadership must be maintained.
  • Promote healthy ecosystems as Australia’s natural capital, which must be secured as an essential prerequisite for a sustainable Australian economy.
  • Promote legal reform to strengthen Australia’s environmental laws to address inadequacies and ensure the maintenance of Australia’s biodiversity and a healthy environment.
  • Recognise the contribution of Indigenous peoples in the conservation and management of Australia’s environment, particularly through Working on Country Rangers and Indigenous Protected Areas, and promote long term support for Indigenous land and sea management.
  • Ensure that Australia truly meets all of our commitments under the Convention on Biological Diversity’s 2020 Aichi Biodiversity Targets, particularly Target 11, and engages in new target discussions beyond 2020.
  • Revitalise political commitment to, and restore funding for, the National Reserve System to ensure Australia has a comprehensive, adequate and representative national system of protected areas.
  • Encourage Australia to adopt ‘whole of landscape’ approaches, defined by IUCN as Areas of Connectivity Conservation, as an essential strategy for effective and inclusive conservation.
  • Promote policy and incentives frameworks that will support diverse components of our community to contribute to the health and productivity of our natural environments, including natural resource management and private land partnerships.
  • Highlight the importance of, and encourage long-term investment in, science, research and traditional knowledge for best-practice conservation.
  • Encourage recognition that healthy ecosystems are vital natural solutions in Australia’s strategies to address climate change mitigation and adaptation.
  • Encourage all sectors to break down jurisdictional silos and boundaries and create new models and partnerships for innovative conservation management and financing.

Strengthening the role of Australia’s Indigenous knowledge and practices in policy

Over tens of thousands of years Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people have developed profound knowledge of the plants and animals of the lands and waters of Australia. In recent decades, Indigenous Ranger programs have drawn upon this knowledge and connection to country to help protect and manage land and sea country in Australia. These programs often operate in remote areas of Australia, which need active management but have limited resources. The Working on Country program has supported over 700 Indigenous Rangers across a wide range of Indigenous communities. In addition to contributing biodiversity benefits and maintaining cultural knowledge, Indigenous rangers can play an important role in safe-guarding Australia’s biosecurity across its northern borders.

In 2017, the Australian Government allocated $30 million funding for Ranger training. xxii It remains essential that Indigenous land and sea management is supported by a core long-term funding commitment, avoiding sporadic allocation of funds. Further elements on Indigenous conservation engagement include strengthening IPAs (p.8), law reform (p.14) and traditional knowledge of biodiversity in science (p.16).

Recommendation: The Commonwealth, working with states, territories and other partners should continue to fund the work of Indigenous Rangers and support training of rangers in modern science to be used with traditional knowledge and practices.


Is there a website or videos from the Science Informing Policy Symposium?

What are the most urgent issues and how will they be addressed?


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International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN)


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