Indigenous knowledge integrated into park management


Kakadu National Park is managed by a board established in 1989, shared between Parks Australia and an Aboriginal majority representing the traditional owners. The management plan was developed through multi-stakeholder consultations to bring traditional expertise and indigenous knowledge into the adaptation strategy.

Title: "Bridging the gap between indigenous and scientific knowledge for adaptive management of Kakadu National Park"

Country: Australia

Organizations: Parks Australia; Board of management of Kakadu National Park; Cooperative Research Centre Sustainable Tourism (STCRC)

Theme: Climate Change Adaptation

Overview of activities: 

The Board organized extensive consultations with the local Aboriginal people on a clan-by-clan basis to seek comments on issues related to the management of the Park. Over 30 participatory planning meetings were held covering a range of Park management issues including: decision-making procedures; natural and cultural resource management; visitor management and Park use; and Aboriginal people employment.

Other stakeholders consulted during the preparation of the management Plan include:

1. tourism industry representatives, scientists, fishing and photography interest groups
2. representatives from Australian government and northern territory government agencies
3. local community organizations
4. the Northern Land Council
5. Parks Australia staff 

The mission of the park’s board management is:

  • protecting Aboriginal culture, including rock art and archaeological sites
  • coastal management
  • fire prevention
  • fighting introduced weeds and plants
  • promoting recreational opportunities and tourism
  • coping with climate change


The multi-stakeholder consultations undertaken included a combination of small group meetings and larger workshops. 

The Board resolved that consultations be undertaken with aboriginal tribes on a clan-by-clan basis to seek comments on issues related to the management of the Park. Park staff conducted extensive consultations during 33 participatory planning meetings. These meetings covered a range of Park management issue including: decision-making procedures; natural and cultural resource management; and visitor management and Park use. A number of Board meetings were also conducted to enable the Board to consider the draft management Plan and submissions received from members of the public.

This communication process allowed for information sharing between those who bring different forms of knowledge to bear on the adaptation challenge.

Major outcomes: 

The key lesson learned from the climate change adaptation work completed at Kakadu is the central role of traditional knowledge in supporting adaptive responses. The joint management arrangements for Kakadu provide the mechanism for traditional owners and Parks Australia to collaborate and work together to bring different forms of knowledge, experience and expertise to bear on development and developing adaptive responses – particularly thinking through how best to monitor and detect the change and adapt accordingly. 

A key success factor has been the ongoing partnership between management authorities, scientists and traditional owners who have helped identify priorities for further research. This has also led to a willingness and a desire among the traditional owners to learn more about climate change and to hear from outside ‘experts’ about how the climate is changing and when the impacts will start to happen.


Photo credit: National Environment Research Program - Northern Australia Hub