Since its establishment in July 2010, Cape York NRM Ltd has been participating in an important five-year research and development project; Transformation for Resilient Landscapes and Communities. The project is funded by Rural Industries Research and Development Corporation (RIRDC).

The aim of the project is to uncover innovative ideas and approaches to natural resource management, based on an understanding of the constantly changing relationship between humans and nature. As with the majority of rural communities in Australia, many of the natural resource management and sustainability challenges for Cape York communities are intractable and are strongly interlinked by social, cultural and economic and ecological dimensions.

This paradigm is referred to as a  ‘lock-in trap’, one where deeply entrenched hard to control problems become intrenched and resistant to change. In Cape York, expected and unexpected changes in government policies and priorities: unpredictable health and livelihood issues; uncertainties associated with climate variability and the future cost of energy, spread of invasive exotic species of plants and animals, as well as the ongoing consequences of the global financial crisis and a high dollar, continue as lead chanllenges.

The aims of the project are ambitious:

  •  To build capacity within Cape York NRM and with Cape York communities to break the current ‘lock in traps’ through understanding and applying intentional transformative change. The ultimate intention is for residents of Cape York to transition to a new era of sustainable resource use, under a strategy and process that recognises the social and economic disadvantage, isolation and seasonal nature of business enterprise.
  • To develop culturally sensitive change processes tools, appropriate to and in recognition of, the importance of healthy reagional country and the priority given by Indigenous communities to working on country and developing sustainable economic opportunities.

These tools and processes are to contribute to a practice toolkit, that will eventually be shared with other regional NRM bodies and with other communities around Australia.

So far, as part of the project, the project team has worked with the Cape York NRM Board to identify major sectors facing intractable problems and where ‘lock-in traps’ seem to be in place. For these sectors, transformative change is a very real option as current approaches are simply reinforcing the problem or changing the problem into a different problem, making the goal of ‘healthy country’ difficult to achieve. The major sectors identified so far are:

  • NRM governance generally, but particularly indigenous governance and engagement in decision making
  • The grazing industry
  •  Conservation
  • Fire, feral animals and weeds

The project team is working closely with Cape York NRM and communities to explore change options in these key areas of NRM.

This conceptual framework represents a work in progress and is constantly being refined as the research progresses.

At its centre is a 3 subsystem for adaptive/ transformative governance and management, which enables structures and activates the other subsystems in the Framework.