Indigenous Fisheries Strategy and Implementation Plan - December 2002


Fishing has been an integral part of the cultural and economic life of coastal and inland Aboriginal communities since they have been in this land. Fishing has been an important source of food, a basis for trade and an important part of cultural and ceremonial life.

Traditionally, Aboriginal fishers had responsibility for providing not just for themselves but for family and community. These cultural expectations continue in Aboriginal communities today. The strategy seeks to protect and enhance the traditional cultural fishing activities of Aboriginal communities, and ensure Aboriginal involvement in the stewardship of fisheries resources.

This strategy acknowledges the concerns and interests of other stakeholders in the fisheries of NSW, all of whom want to enjoy the resource, benefit from it, and ensure its long term sustainability

An underlying theme in consultations about this strategy was the desire to preserve fisheries for the future. This is the point at which the interests of the Aboriginal communities and the broader Australian community intersect.

The Structure of the Strategy

There are some issues which can be addressed immediately by this strategy. Others will only be resolved after lengthy negotiation involving Aboriginal communities, the broader community, fishing groups and government agencies. The strategy will put in place a process which will ensure discussion and negotiation can continue with progressive resolution of problems and challenges.

The Indigenous Fisheries Strategy is based on four "key platforms" which the NSW Aboriginal Land Council has stated must be central to future NSW Fisheries planning.

  • Respect: A philosophic and practical recognition of the traditional and cultural fishing heritage of Aboriginal people and communities, including their access to and use of the fisheries resource.
  • Engagement: Involvement of Aboriginal communities with management and custodianship of resources in keeping with their traditional cultural roles.
  • Social and Economic Development: Aboriginal people and communities having access to economic opportunities in established and emerging fishing industries.
  • Employment: Aboriginal people and communities accessing employment and training opportunities in resource management and in the fishing and aquaculture industries.
    Source: NSWALC submission to the Indigenous Fisheries Consultation, Aug 2002

Over several years, NSW Fisheries' consultation has gathered the views of Aboriginal communities on the best approach to an Indigenous fisheries strategy. The consultation has also clarified the views of other interest groups such as conservationists, commercial fishers, recreational fishers and the broader community. The strategy seeks to ensure Aboriginal access for both cultural and economic activities, while acknowledging the broader community will have ongoing access to fisheries resources.

The NSW Indigenous Fisheries Strategy will:

  • Encourage a broad community understanding of Indigenous traditional cultural fishing issues in NSW.
  • Ensure that the importance of traditional cultural fishing is acknowledged in fisheries policy and practices, and during discussions on fisheries resource management issues.
  • Encourage and support the involvement of Indigenous communities in the management of the state's fisheries resources.
  • Encourage and support the involvement of Indigenous communities in commercial fishing, fishing based ecotourism, and the emerging aquaculture industry.

Key Strategies

In implementing the strategy 2002 - 2004 NSW Fisheries will:

  • Create an Indigenous Fisheries Working Group with members from inland and coastal communities to advise NSW Fisheries on Indigenous issues and on how to consult with Aboriginal communities.
  • Acknowledge and address Indigenous issues in preparing every fishery management strategy.
  • Consult with Aboriginal communities when selecting marine parks, and on plans for their future management.
  • Actively promote Indigenous involvement in aquaculture through community based workshops, by offering professional advice, and by helping to develop and deliver training programs.
  • Support the ongoing exemption of traditional cultural fishing from the recreational fishing licensing scheme.
  • Actively seek Indigenous community members who can speak for their people on fisheries advisory bodies, and maintain a register of people interested in taking part.
  • Support the continued involvement of Indigenous commercial fishers in the industry.
  • Negotiate, agree and maintain a system which allows ongoing access to the fisheries resource for Aboriginal people for traditional cultural activities.
  • Support and promote the employment of Aboriginal staff in NSW Fisheries, within natural resource management generally, and in the aquaculture and commercial fishing industries.
  • Support a coordinated Indigenous approach to natural resource management.

Each of these strategies will be advanced by NSW Fisheries with advice from the Indigenous Fisheries Working Group.

Specific initiatives:

Building Respect for Aboriginal Tradition and Culture:

  • Employ an Indigenous Fisheries Strategy Project Manager to work with communities in NSW. The Project Manager will assist NSW Fisheries in identifying and acknowledging issues in fisheries management, in marine park planning and in Indigenous access to fisheries resources.
  • Create an Indigenous Fisheries Working Group to consult with communities and advise NSW Fisheries on policy and management issues.
  • Implement cultural awareness training and education programs for NSW Fisheries' staff, members of advisory committees and where possible other interest groups involved in the fisheries of NSW .
  • Employ and retain Indigenous Fisheries Officers in regional locations, with an emphasis on having Indigenous community involvement in fisheries management issues and promoting community commitment to regulations.
  • Provide Aboriginal access to fisheries for ceremonial occasions, and prepare proposals for government in cases where the Indigenous Fisheries Working Group advises changes may be appropriate.
  • Identify compliance and management issues relevant to Indigenous people and through Indigenous Fisheries Working Group consider strategies to address these issues.

Engaging Aboriginal Communities in Fisheries Resource Management:

  • Through the Indigenous Fisheries Working Group, identify local people who can contribute to fisheries and marine park planning and resource management on behalf of their communities.
  • Negotiate with local communities on ways to achieve sustainable fisheries and where appropriate engage other agencies in joint strategies which contribute to sustainable resource management.

Social and Economic Development:

  • Promote community access to aquaculture opportunities through workshops and through evaluation of aquaculture opportunities.
  • Link communities to other government agencies which are able to plan and support commercial fishing and aquaculture ventures.
  • Promote Indigenous involvement in shellfish aquaculture.
  • Assist with feasibility studies to assess viability of identified value adding commercial opportunities associated with fishing e.g. fish processing.
  • Assist with the development and promotion of Indigenous fishery based eco-tourism opportunities.
  • Consult with the Indigenous Fisheries Working Group on strategies to maintain and support Aboriginal fishers in the commercial fishing industry.

Indigenous Employment Opportunities:

  • Develop a strategy to create opportunities for Aboriginal employment in NSW Fisheries, including joint discussions to review opportunities with other natural resource management agencies.
  • Work with NSW TAFE and other training organisations to encourage employment related training for Aboriginal people interested in working in aquaculture, natural resources management and commercial fishing.
  • Review opportunities for Indigenous development of coastal aquaculture sites where communities have the capital to develop those sites or have ownership/access to land
  • Provide business development advice to communities and advise on the skills required to manage and develop commercial aquaculture ventures.

The plan has 4 key result areas:

Key Result Area 1: Building respect for Aboriginal tradition and culture.
Goal: To ensure the knowledge and views of Indigenous communities are understood, respected and considered in fishery and marine park planning.

Key Result Area 2: Engaging Aboriginal Communities in Fisheries Resource Management.
Goal: To involve Aboriginal communities in fishery and marine park management.

Key Result Area 3: Social and Economic Development.
Goal: To encourage Aboriginal community involvement in commercial opportunities associated with our fisheries resources.

Key Result Area 4: Indigenous Employment Opportunities.
Goal: To promote opportunities for Aboriginal employment and training in NSW Fisheries and in resource management, aquaculture and commercial fishing.

Implementation Plan

Key Result Area 1 - Building respect for Aboriginal tradition and culture

Goal: To ensure the knowledge and views of Indigenous communities are understood, respected and considered in fishery and marine park planning in NSW


Proposed Action

Immediate Priority Tasks (Completed by June 2003)

Further Tasks

(Completed by June 2004)

Indigenous involvement in management

Create a 2 year Project Manager position  to support the Indigenous Fisheries Working Group (IFWG) and negotiate with Aboriginal communities

Create an Indigenous Fisheries Officer position to work with indigenous communities and inside the Department to implement culturally appropriate fishery resource management and compliance processes

Officer employed by November 2002

Officer employed by March 2003

Evaluate impact of position's establishment

Local input to fishery management strategies

Develop and facilitate a model for community input to fishery management planning and progressive involvement in fishery management strategies

Communities identify and document priorities

Communities involved in development and implementation of fishery management strategies

Model completed

Cultural awareness training

Develop a training module for cultural awareness training for NSW Fisheries staff

Organise for identified staff to complete module over 2 year period

Offer cultural awareness seminars for advisory committees and promote cultural awareness more broadly

Module developed and 80 identified staff complete training

One pilot training session

160 staff complete training

Cultural awareness training included in NSW Fisheries induction process

Cultural knowledge module developed, accredited and available

Training available to all committees

Access to fisheries for cultural and ceremonial reasons

Review current Indigenous cultural access to fisheries, review options with IFWG and prepare advice after reviewing input from communities

Initial report prepared by December 2003


Key Result Area 2 - Engaging Aboriginal Communities in Fisheries Resource Management

Goal:  To involve Aboriginal communities in fishery and marine park management


Proposed Action

Immediate Priority Tasks

(completed by June 2003)

Further Tasks

(completed by June 2004)

Consultation and Negotiation

Appoint Interim Indigenous Fisheries Working Group to advise on finalisation of strategy and future membership

Appoint Indigenous Fisheries Working Group (IFWG) to advise on implementation of strategy

IFWG constituted


Community involvement in management

With advice from IFWG identify people to represent communities

Progressively identify key planning issues for communities

Consult on Indigenous issues regarding fisheries management and marine park planning

Register established

Each advisory body to report on issues as appropriate



Implement youth conferencing and warning scheme for young offenders

Consult with IFWG on fisheries compliance after Indigenous Fisheries Officers in place

Develop and implement scheme in consultation with relevant Government agencies and IFWG

Interim report complete

Report prepared with IFWG that includes operational proposals for the Director

Key Result Area 3 - Social and Economic Development

Goal:  To encourage Aboriginal community involvement in commercial opportunities associated with our fisheries resources


Proposed Action

Immediate Priority Tasks

(completed by June 2003)

Further Tasks

(completed by June 2004)

Scoping workshops

Publicise and promote workshops to scope aquaculture opportunities in communities

Workshop approach agreed

Workshops offered in interested communities


Evaluation studies

Fund appropriate feasibility studies in areas where communities are committed to aquaculture

Feasibility studies funded


Referral protocols agreed with regional development agencies

Develop protocols for involving specialist Aboriginal agencies or NSW economic development agencies in working with communities on aquaculture and other commercial ventures

Agreements in place


Aquaculture hatchery

Identify and formalise community partnership model for an aquaculture hatchery on the coast

Proposal from NSW Fisheries discussed with IFWG

Develop appropriate agreement with selected communities



Negotiate with TAFE and/or other training organisations to partner with Fisheries in delivering an aquaculture management program for Indigenous people

Program developed

Training begins

Training available in three regional locations

Extension services

Implement business development and extension services for Indigenous people in aquaculture

Program developed

Review of program undertaken

Value adding initiatives

Consult Indigenous commercial fishers to identify value adding opportunities

Opportunities identified by December 2003

New programs progressed where opportunities identified

Indigenous commercial fishers

Project Manager to identify strategies to maintain levels of Indigenous involvement in commercial fishing.

Initial report prepared

Final report prepared for Director-General.

Key Result Area 4 - Indigenous Employment Opportunities

 Goal:  To promote opportunities for Aboriginal employment and training in NSW Fisheries and in resource management, aquaculture and commercial fishing


Proposed Action

Immediate Priority Tasks

(completed by June 2003)

Further Tasks

(completed by June 2004)

Employment strategy

Develop an employment strategy for NSW Fisheries in consultation with Indigenous Fisheries Working Group (IFWG), including consideration of part time employment

Report prepared


Natural resource  agency employment

Initiate/facilitate a workshop with natural resource agencies and Aboriginal representative agencies on a joint approach to employment in the sector


Report prepared and proposals with government for joint approach

Aquaculture sites

Develop a framework for Aboriginal communities to access and use land they own, for coastal aquaculture operations, including assisting with business plans and to locate capital.

Develop framework


Skills identification

Review aquaculture and commercial fishing opportunities, consult with IFWG and prepare advice to communities on the skills required to sustain these businesses

Develop paper for IFWG

Long term training plan formulated by June 2004