After growing up with it, pastoralism remains a land use aspiration for many traditional owners in our region.
Central Australia’s arid climate and unreliable rainfall makes for poor pastoral country even before the effects of climate change. Cattle stations here are expensive to run, far from markets, often have poor infrastructure and suffer from inefficiencies of scale. These conditions destroyed the pastoral dreams of many hardy, enterprising settlers last century. From the 1970s, they sold the most unprofitable pastoral leases to Aboriginal people. Many leases, usually degraded land with decrepit infrastructure, became Aboriginal land trusts.
Productivity varies across this Aboriginal land in Central Australia but is generally low. Some land types – hills, ranges, flood-outs, alluvial, spinifex, sand and black soil plains – can carry up to 10 cattle per square kilometre in an average season. Others carry less than one. Most Aboriginal land is at the lower end of this scale. Despite these formidable challenges, the promise of pastoral development continues to inspire traditional owners, especially when beef prices are high and they see few other economic opportunities.
We have supported Aboriginal pastoralists since 1991, providing governance and administrative support to commercial enterprises and helping smaller operators with business planning, technical and marketing advice and training.
We offer planning and management support for new pastoral enterprises, assistance with natural resource audits and protection for ecologically and culturally sensitive sites.
We negotiate grazing licences on Aboriginal land with non-Aboriginal pastoralists and monitor licence conditions on behalf of the traditional owners. We ensure that licence proponents train and employ local Aboriginal people.
As part of our pastoral development strategy, we keep licence holders to grazing levels compatible with cultural and natural resource values and make sure they develop infrastructure that will continue to benefit traditional owners.