Project 4.9.1

Identification of linked cultural and biophysical indicators for the Wet Tropics World Heritage Area

Project Leader: Prof Steve Turton, JCU

If current plans to nominate the Wet Tropics World Heritage Area for formal designation as a Cultural Landscape are successful, the management agency will be required to report on the status of the region’s cultural values, in addition to the status of the natural values for which the Area is already recognised. Identification of appropriate and meaningful indicators for the cultural status of the Rainforest Aboriginal Peoples who have shaped the Wet Tropics Cultural Landscape over thousands of years has been the focus of this MTSRF-funded project. The eighteen linked cultural and biophysical indicators that have been identified fall into six categories:

  1. Recognition of rights and interests;
  2. Participation in management;
  3. Socioeconomic benefits;
  4. Heritage and spiritual values;
  5. Understanding history; and
  6. Climate change.

The regional indicators are designed to reflect changes in Rainforest Aboriginal Culture (positive or negative) and are measurable attributes that Indigenous communities feel are acceptable and appropriate to measure and include in routine monitoring programs. The categories and indicators have been presented within a ‘spider’s web’ framework, acknowledging that for any action on country there will be consequences felt throughout country. In addition to routine regional monitoring and reporting, these cultural indicators can be included in joint management initiatives/proposals; used in country-based management plans; support participation of Traditional Owners in cultural heritage management; support cross-cultural development, understanding and conflict resolution; and can provide a pathway for integration into future decision-making processes. Improving representations of Indigenous Culture in formal reporting frameworks remains a significant challenge.





Project 4.9.1 CSIRO Cullen-Unsworth, L. et al. (2010) Best practice and use of methods for the development of a series of cultural indicators for the Wet Tropics World Heritage Area: final project report

This report provides a discussion around best practice and use of methods for the cooperative development of a series of cultural indicators for the Wet Tropics World Heritage Area (WTWHA). The indicators were derived through a project to develop a series of linked cultural and biophysical indicators for the WTWHA. In this context ‘linked cultural and biophysical indicators’ means cultural indicators that are linked to the Wet Tropics rainforest. These indicators outline why the WTWHA is so important to Rainforest Aboriginal people and provide some (limited) insight into how Rainforest Aboriginal peoples may have shaped the WTWHA into the rich cultural landscape that it represents today. The cultural indicators derived at this stage are potential indicators of cultural status or change that are linked to the biophysical environment of the WTWHA. The WTWHA is regarded by many Australians as a cultural landscape; however, it is not yet officially recognised as such by any formal designation. The area is currently under consideration for inclusion as a cultural property on the Australian National Heritage List. At this stage, recognition on the National Heritage List is a precursor for re-nomination on the World Heritage List as an ‘area of cultural value’. This revised listing would recognise the WTWHA as a World Heritage Listed Cultural Landscape. If successful, a formal requirement will be to report on the cultural values, in addition to the natural values for which the area is already recognised.


Project 4.9.1 JCU McIntyre-Tamwoy, S. et al. (2010) Wet Tropics Traditional Owners Strategic Research Directions Workshop Report

This report documents the outcomes of a Wet Tropics Traditional Owner workshop held in Innisfail, North Queensland on 15-16 September 2009. The objectives of the workshop were to present the outcomes and experiences associated with MTSRF funded Rainforest Aboriginal research during the period 2006-2010, provide a synthesis of work that occurred through the Rainforest CRC relevant to Aboriginal peoples, provide opportunities for participants to discuss emerging research priorities for natural and cultural resource management, enable target setting for potential future research, and make recommendations for future funding programs such as 'MTSRF 2'.


Report 33 Series No. - Fuary, M. (2009) An evaluation of previous and current methods and models for researching Indigenous resource use and purposes, with recommendations for 'best practice' research solutions


Report Series No. 26 - Gabriel, J. A. (2009) Cooperative Conservation: Beyond the Rhetoric. A report highlighting International Best Practice recommendations for World Heritage Protected Areas and identifying 'best practice' models and practical solutions that could be applied in the Wet Tropics


Project 4.9.1 CSIRO Hill, R. (2008) Indigenous Cultural Action Workshop Report Hill, R., Cullen, L., Hedgcock, N., George, C., Canendo, W., McCaul, J. and Hill, D. (2008)

Indigenous Cultural Action for Biological and Cultural Conservation and Human Well-being: Report of the Alliance Workshop held at the Fourth IUCN World Conservation Congress, Barcelona, 5-9 October 2008. CSIRO Sustainable Ecosystems.