The Kimberley to Cape Initiative encompasses a quarter of a billion hectares of arguably the largest ecologically intact area of tropical savannas, rivers and shallow seas in the world.
From Broome in the Kimberley, to Cairns at the edge of the Cape York Peninsula, the region spans 3,000 km over three jurisdictions and is home to some of the most iconic and culturally and ecologically important landscapes in Australia. The North is also home to around 400,000 people, many of whom live in small towns, remote communities or on stations. Indigenous Australians make up a large component of this population, having lived here for more than 40,000 years, and hold, manage and have claim to large areas of land.
The Kimberly to Cape Initiative is based in Darwin and is committed to working with indigenous organisations, industry, environmental groups, natural resource management (NRM) groups, community groups, governments, researchers and others to achieve a sustainable and prosperous future for the North and its savanna landscapes. Our work is based on strong science and local to international expertise, drawing from a wealth of energy and wisdom across and beyond Northern Australia.
Kimberley to Cape recognises that conservation and sustainable livelihoods go hand-in-hand. As such, the Initiative has developed four guiding principles and two key long term goals. Of the latter, one goal is to keep the North ecologically intact to safeguard natural and cultural values, as well as to support industries such as tourism, recreation, fishing, carbon and grazing. The second equally important goal is to support development that strengthens the wellbeing of communities in the North. This involves working with others to identify what types of development are most sustainable and appropriate for the North and to translate this into government policy, industry practice, enterprise hubs and jobs.
Making a collective impact for communities and ecosystems in Northern Australia
There are few existing active mechanisms for cross-sector collaboration in the North, yet the issues are complex. Therefore, I am working towards establishing a ‘collective impact’ approach to coordinate efforts towards shared goals, as well as to promote successful efforts happening locally and across the larger landscape.
Kimberley to Cape currently serves as a facilitator of dialogue and collaboration that builds consensus on what a successful future for Northern Australia looks like. This involves providing forums for knowledge exchange, discussion and connection, and making and taking opportunities to catalyse action towards shared success, such as coordinating submissions and identifying shared messages.
Demonstrating the power of multi-sectoral, community-led management
In our two and a half years of operation I have, for example, hosted the Northern Australian Futures Roundtable which attracted close to 100 leaders from over 50 organisations representing multiple sectors, and coordinated and presented submissions endorsed by multiple sectors to a Parliamentary Inquiry and Green Paper on Developing Northern Australia. I coordinate monthly teleconferences for people involved in conservation work across the North via our ‘Connections’ initiative, and collate news from across the North into a monthly ‘roundup’ which gets great feedback. I’m also progressing our ‘Sharing Stories towards a 2030 Vision’ series to identify common ground for different themes, and am now seeking feedback on a vision for agriculture across the North.
Kimberley to Cape’s work is overseen by a multi-sector Advisory Group and our stakeholder network continues to grow.
An increasingly urgent situation
The current push to develop Australia’s North as the ‘next frontier’ talks of ‘unleashing’ and ‘unlocking’ its development potential with seemingly little consideration of natural and cultural values, or for community wellbeing. Much development rhetoric is focused on big projects including large dams, ports and mines (e.g. via a $5 billion loans scheme), whereas most industry, Indigenous and environmental groups see investment in the creation and expansion of small to medium enterprises as the better way forward.
To overcome the increasingly serious economic and social disadvantages experienced by many Indigenous communities, it is critical that development embraces cultural values and matches cultural strengths to increase Indigenous participation rates. Research shows that otherwise benefits rarely ‘trickle-down’ to such communities.
Biodiversity in the North is deteriorating on many measures, with many small mammals likely to be extinct in 10 to 20 years. Protected land areas cover only 13% of the region and the existing limited marine park network is at risk of being undone. More effort to support and enhance the stewardship efforts of land owners and managers is urgent, as is work to bring these efforts together to establish a connected network of lands managed for nature across the North.
Next steps for Kimberley to Cape
The next six months are a critical time for Kimberley to Cape. We need to secure further funding and indeed increase our capacity to maintain the momentum generated to date. We’ll also be:
- Progressing our ‘Sharing Stories’ initiative to develop theme-based pictures of success and facilitate conversations around the desired outcomes of development;
- Promoting the values of the savanna and recommending key pathways forward through the ‘Our Great North’ project;
- And undertaking activities that continue to demonstrate the value of working together.
There is so much to do to shape a sustainable and prosperous future for Northern Australia and to keep the world’s greatest tropical savanna intact!
The photos featured in this post were provided by Dr. Clare Taylor.
Dr. Clare Taylor is a facilitator with an unwavering passion for the ecosystems and communities of Northern Australia. As the Coordinator of the Kimberly to Cape Initiative, Dr. Taylor brings years of experience in natural resource science and management abroad and in Australia. For more information on her career, and work with Kimberly to Cape Initiative, please contact her at e email@example.com.