Aboriginal communities have property rights for 85% of the Northern Territory’s coastline, with respect to the Aboriginal Land Rights (NT) Act 1976. This significant asset that is unique to the rest of Australia provides an important opportunity for communities to create niche markets and build their capacity around providing services to and engaging directly in the fishing and seafood sectors. However, these mostly remote Aboriginal communities have limited capacity to access to services and expertise that is needed to assist them in their planning and development of commercial interests.
The Aboriginal led Wurrahiliba Management Committee for the region from Roper River to Robinson River in the Gulf of Carpentaria has identified a clear need for instruments that will assist the local community in developing sustainable and low risk business investments that enhance local fishing activity and community participation through jobs and enterprises. Any achievements toward this will assist Aboriginal communities in realising the benefits from their unique property right.
While the focus of the project is in the Gulf region, the approach taken in addressing local needs would easily transfer to other regions, both in the Northern Territory and nationally. The tools applied to build the capacity of Aboriginal people in determining business opportunities provides a useful model that could be reshaped, based on local aspirations, and applied in other regions where communities are similarly struggling to consolidate ideas and identify the steps and support services necessary to start up small business in supporting local economies generated by fishing and seafood sectors.
- The overarching objective is to build the capacity of the WMC in:
- Identifying well founded opportunities to grow local fishing sector economies
- Realising impediments and
- Developing a strategy of steps to bring opportunities to fruition.
- Ensure community-based planning approaches inform the project and meet specific needs of the community, particularly Aboriginal social and cultural aspirations in fishing and seafood sectors which are often missed in mainstream planning stages.
- Support best practice through informed consent from Traditional Owners in all stages of enterprise development on their land and tidal waters.
- Develop Traditional Owners networks with fishing industries, local Aboriginal Ranger programs, local business, relevant agencies and other stakeholder interests.
- Facilitate robust communication and relationship building among Traditional Owners and stakeholders through forums and consultations.
- Raise community awareness through networks and communication materials.
- Support a consultative process that facilitates the mapping of existing local fishing activity and services and identifies needs as well as new opportunities and gaps.
- Refine interests into potential business scenarios that can be used in a second phase of this project which is to develop and test the feasibility of business cases.
- Develop a report for the community that will provide a legacy product to assist the WMC in setting priorities and developing its interests over the next 10-15 years.