Traditional Peoples

Free, prior, and informed consent what does that mean?

Free– no coercion, bullying, or bribery.
Prior– respectful and timely, appreciating cultural protocols that decisions are made by the collective and that takes time.
Informed Consent– means all information must be fully disclosed to make an informed decision and delivered in a open, transparent and honest manner.

Exerts from a JCU paper Moving in the Rights direction by Lea Scherl

To successfully conserve nature requires empowered stewardship by Indigenous Peoples and local communities working together. What or how much to conserve detracts from potentially more important debates about how conservation is done, by whom and with what outcomes. A key implication is that the most important factor in achieving positive conservation outcomes is not the level of restrictions or magnitude of material benefits provided to local communities, but rather recognising local social and cultural practices and capacity to make decisions. Empowered local communities can provide effective environmental stewardship.

Locally controlled conservation produces better outcomes because it fosters active and collective stewardship of the environment. Such approaches can establish a shared vision for the landscape communities inhabit and mobilise people to preserve, restore and defend it while adapting to any threats or changes.

Community cohesion, shared knowledge and values, social inclusion, effective leadership and legitimate authority are important ingredients that are often disrupted through processes of globalisation, modernisation or insecurity, and can take many years to reestablish. Additionally, factors beyond the local community can greatly impede local stewardship, such as laws and policies that discriminate against local customs and systems in favour of commercial activities.

Effective conservation needs Indigenous Peoples and local communities Our findings suggest that equitable conservation, which empowers and supports the environmental stewardship of Indigenous Peoples and local communities represents the primary pathway to effective long-term conservation of biodiversity, particularly when upheld in wider law and policy.

Whether the approach is described as a ‘Nature-Based Solution’, carbon or biodiversity offsetting, restoration, rewilding, payments for ecosystem services, protected areas, private conservancies or some other form, the most important questions are not how much will be protected or how much money is available, but how it aims to conserve: whether through excluding Indigenous Peoples and local communities or through recognising their rights, roles in decision making, and potential stewardship. Approaches that affirm local rights are most likely to be successful in the long-term, while continuing those exclusive approaches that have performed poorly for people and nature are no longer justifiable.

Supporting local communities’ rights of access, to influence decisions that profoundly affect their lives and cultures and to act as stewards of the environment should not be viewed as a radical approach. On the contrary, our study communicates an optimistic message for people and the planet: Conservation can become more effective through an increased focus on governance quality, and on fostering solutions that reinforce the roles, capacities and rights of Indigenous Peoples and local communities.

This is capable of ushering in a new era of collaboration with, support for, and stewardship by Indigenous Peoples and local communities that enhances prospects for both environmental conservation and human wellbeing. This work was supported by the International Union for the Conservation of Nature Commission on Environmental, Economic and Social Policy (IUCN CEESP) and through the ‘Just Conservation’ project funded by the Centre for the Synthesis and Analysis of Biodiversity (CESAB) of the French Foundation for Research on Biodiversity (FRB),

Traditional Owner Engagement

Guardians of Wet Tropics believes local Traditional Owners must be in involved at the start of any conversations or gatherings with neighbouring landholders and in the design and delivery of projects. By operating with open transparent communication, we hope to be led in the planning stages of any projects on the ground by Traditional Owners in their traditional country.

Supporting and actively promoting any opportunities for the continuation of connecting to country and the passing on of their Traditional Ecological Knowledge and Cultural Protocol connection to their country for their next generation and the engagement with the wider community.

Traditional Owners have a wealth of knowledge that for too long has been ignored. Healing the country and listening to the wisdom of the ‘original guardians’ is crucial at this time. The choice of species for revegetation on traditional country must be considered in the planning and delivery of projects to ensure that their bush tucker plants, native flowering and fruiting shrubs are regenerated, enhanced and increased for future generations.

All projects developed under Guardians of the Wet Tropics when possible, wish to create and offer employment and training opportunities to indigenous people and their younger generations to get them back on country, connecting to their culture and support Indigenous Land Sea Ranger Programs.