Global change is exacerbating the need for more effective mechanisms and approaches for working towards economic, social/cultural and environmental sustainability. It is now well recognised that science for sustainability will require integrated problem-focussed research that is by nature trans-disciplinary. Resolutions to both global and regional scale issues must involve participation of a diverse number of stakeholders. One region that would benefit greatly from such an integrated approach is the Northern Territory of Australia. This area is home to some of the most pristine savanna landscapes in the world and it is also occupied by one of the oldest living human cultures which are still in existence today. However, in recent years there has been increasing pressure to develop this region. The Northern Territory is also facing problems associated with having a growing Aboriginal population with deepening health and social problems. So as well as needing to facilitate adaptation in response to global change and development for economic prosperity of the region, there is an obligation to alter management practices to reduce social disadvantage. In light of this, it will be important that future landscapes are multifunctional and designed to ensure the preservation of biological and cultural diversity, as well as having provision for the livelihoods of the people that live within them. This article recommends the adoption of a landscape ecological approach for strategic development and sustainable planning, which captures and incorporates the values and identities of the different stakeholders, as well as engaging them in a continuous, adaptive process of planning and management, and in doing so discusses the importance of human ecological holism as part of the conceptual framework for landscape ecology. � 2010 Springer Science+Business Media B.V.