THE people of Cape York, as those of many rural communities in Australia, are facing an uncertain future. It is a future includes uncertainty about climate change and a multiude of mixed messages about the impact of government policy on carbon trading, the future of mineral resources, the state of land tenure and conservation policies, including  those that affect National Parks, Wild Rivers and World Heritage.

There are also long standing challenge:  remoteness of many communities, lack of good infrastructure (roads, bridges, telephone and internet), depletion of population,  declining terms of trade for agricultural industries, and resultant hardship of severe weather and natural disaster events .  Residents of the Cape report that the ways in which they have dealt with these issues in the past are no longer working effectively, leading to a feeling of vulnerability and frustration throughout the wider community.

One way the people of remote, resource dependent Cape York communities can cope with these challenges and make the most of what the future has to offer, is to develop the proactive skills. Skilling up will help to adapt to chnanging situations, or to transform businesses, organisations and communities.  Doing so is to create new futures for themselves and their region.

Cape York NRM has entered into a partnership with the Rural Industries Research and Development Corporation (RIRDC) and a team of people led by Rod Griffith who has relocated to the area to work with people on Cape York to identify their natural resource related cultural, social and economic goals, using a resilience thinking approach. Resilience is about how well and how quickly communities can recover or react to setbacks or disruptive situations in order to prevent conflict, crisis or disruption.

The project: Transforming the way natural resource management is done on the Cape, will use a resilience assessment to assist communities to better understand the complex connection between their natural resource based cultural, social and work or business related activities, and to better understand he impact of changes in the condition of Cape York’s natural resources and the laws and regulations to do with our natural and cultural heritage.

Once the issues and coping strategies have been identified, communities can take steps to adjust to the limits, risks and opportunities of uncertain futures of their natural resources when developing economic strategies to achieve social objectives.

The goal of this three-year project is for as many Cape York communities as possible, to have developed planning tools, livelihood innovations and skills, which will assist them in adapting to the challenges they face at this time. Along with these skills, to have gained an ability to respond more effectively to major unexpected events which may impact on them in the future.

By the end of this coming financial year it is hoped that two communities will have taken part in a pilot program and will have carried out their own resilience assessment, mapped out a future direction for their community and agreed on a portfolio of innovative projects and transformative actions for change.

Findings from the Transforming the way natural resource management is done on the Cape research and discussion papers will be available (after the NRM CY Board has approved) by the end of February 2015.

More information will be provided in future Newsletters, or contact me by email at bobfrazer@capeyorknrm.com.au