Australian biodiversity is facing an extinction crisis; yet, government spending on conservation is wholly inadequate. The involvement of local communities in fundraising, direct actions, and habitat restoration is becoming vital in the fate of threatened species. Here, we review the research outputs and impact generated from 22 years of conservation-driven collaboration between researchers and a local community focused on saving the endangered Mary River turtle (Elusor macrurus). The study found that this collaboration generated a significant body of research that advanced the ecological knowledge of the species and ensured the findings were being applied towards the conservation of the turtle, locally and nationally. While the national listing status of E. macrurus as endangered has not changed over the past 22 years, the knowledge gained about the turtle's biology and its use to better advise development and water resources in the catchment suggests that the species' future is brighter than when it was first discovered in 1994. This review demonstrates the potential of local communities in driving and supporting conservation initiatives and provides a blueprint for scientific endeavours that inform adaptive community conservation programmes for threatened species.