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Indigenous Payment for Environmental Service (PES) Opportunities in the Northern Territory: negotiating with customs

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Recent government initiatives have acknowledged Indigenous ranger groups in the 'top end' (northern region) of the Northern Territory (NT), Australia, for their holistic role in environmental management and community development. The services provided by these groups are of national significance with respect to biodiversity protection, ongoing cultural maintenance, employment for remote communities, border protection, and biosecurity. However, the acknowledgement of these services has received only limited translation into meaningful financial and technical support for Indigenous ranger groups. The present paper highlights the value of environmental services provided by Indigenous ranger groups and contrasts this with the inadequate recognition of these services by government agencies. Although government budget initiatives and policy directions are moving towards greater recognition of Indigenous environmental service provision, border protection negotiations between key NT Indigenous sea ranger groups and Australian Customs Service illustrate some of the limiting factors to progression of this recognition. The present paper highlights the necessity of ensuring accountability of processes to Indigenous rangers themselves so that payment for environmental services does not become an imposition, but rather a mechanism for realising Indigenous community aspirations, as well as addressing issues of regional, state/territory, and national significance.
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Keywords: Indigenous Australians; Northern Territory; biodiversity; biosecurity; environmental service; self-determination

Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: Macquarie University, Australia

Publication date: 2008-06-01

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