Georges Riverkeeper Aboriginal Riverkeeper Team: a model for successful engagement of Aboriginal communities in natural resource management of urban areas
There are a variety of barriers to involving Aboriginal communities in Natural Resource Management in urban regions, including: greater numbers of stakeholders with competing demands; insufficient and/or inappropriate communication with Aboriginal groups; and the accessibility of Traditional Ecological Knowledge (TEK) in urban areas. From 2014 to 2017, an Aboriginal Riverkeeper Team was active in the Georges River catchment of southern Sydney, providing formal conservation land management qualifications and TEK training for participants, while delivering significant on-ground outcomes. The Aboriginal Riverkeeper Team was a success due to an Aboriginal engagement model which included a wide range of Aboriginal stakeholders, community engagement from conception to completion, shared goals, valuing of Aboriginal culture, prioritisation of Aboriginal participation and the empowerment of Aboriginal leadership. In this paper, we reflect on the foundation activities and engagement which led to the Local Aboriginal Land Councils of southern Sydney championing the Aboriginal Riverkeeper Team as a model for local government Aboriginal engagement in urban areas. While the engagement process's long term goal was Aboriginal self-determination, the overall engagement process became a two way exchange and learning experience for both the local councils and Aboriginal organisations and individuals.