Aboriginal Community Views about a Native Plant-Based Enterprise Development in Northern Australia

Julian Gorman, Gretchen Ennis, Penelope Wurm, Melissa Bentivoglio, Chris Brady

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As global populations rapidly increase, there is a need to maintain sustainable landscapes through innovative agricultural systems and practices that continue to work towards addressing Sustainable Development Goal 2, Zero Hunger. Indigenous people around the world seek culturally appropriate and sustainable livelihood opportunities to improve their socioeconomic status, and there is a rich diversity of existing globally important agricultural heritage systems that have been developed by Indigenous cultures over millennia. Wild harvest of plant products is an innovative agricultural practice which has been conducted by Aboriginal Australians for thousands of years and is a more acceptable form of agriculture on Aboriginal land than more intensive forms, such as horticulture. Wild harvest is typically more culturally appropriate, less intensive, and involves less impact. However, enterprise development programs in Aboriginal communities across Northern Australia have historically had very limited economic success. Such communities often experience high welfare dependency and few economic development opportunities. This research takes a case study approach to explore community views about the development of an Aboriginal plant-based enterprise in the Northern Territory, Australia. We used qualitative methods to engage with community members about their experiences, current attitudes, and future aspirations towards the Enterprise. We found that there was broad support from across all sectors of the community for the Enterprise and clear understanding of its monetary and non-monetary benefits. However, there was limited knowledge of, and involvement in, the business beyond the role of provider and producer, and of the governance aspects of the Enterprise. Using this case study as our focus, we advocate for deeper understanding and stronger inclusion of community aspirations, realities, and perspectives on Aboriginal economic development. Cultural values and knowledge need to inform business development. Additionally, there is a need to invest in basic infrastructure to account for the low base of private asset ownership in this context. A holistic, multifunctional landscape approach is required to support sustainable agricultural practices on Aboriginal lands across Northern Australia.

Original languageEnglish
Article number1096
Pages (from-to)1-16
Issue number5
Publication statusPublished - May 2023


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