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Dugong and Marine Turtle Project Final Report Executive Summary 2009

Man holding baby sea turtles

NAILSMA Dugong and Marine Turtle Project Final Report 2009

  • Author:  NAILSMA
  • The Australian Government’s Performance Story evaluation of the NAILSMA Dugong and Marine Turtle Project (DMTP) concluded the project was a “standout success” that had “outstripped the original expectations”.

    The project has created innovative communication and management tools and established on-ground monitoring and research activities that address many dugong and marine turtle management issues including sustainable catch management. The networks established by the project bring together Indigenous and non-Indigenous people in effective partnerships across the range of these iconic migratory species.

    Project outline, timetable and delivery process

    The NAILSMA DMTP commenced in January 2005 following a successful select tender bid by NAILSMA and Partners under the Northern Territory Regional Competitive Component of the NHT. The project received an initial funding allocation of $3.8m over 2.5 years, and following outstanding early success of the project and negotiations with the Australian Government’s NRM Joint Team, NAILSMA and Partners received timeline extensions to December 2008 and additional funding taking the total to $4.85m. The project was awarded transition funds of $600k by the Australian Government for year 1 of the new Caring for Our Country initiative.

    The long term vision of the project is for healthy and sustainable populations of dugong and marine turtles in north Australian waters that support Indigenous livelihoods. The project spanned north Australia and involved communities identified and supported by NAILSMA project partners Kimberley Land Council (KLC), Northern Land Council (NLC), Carpentaria Land Council Aboriginal Corporation (CLCAC), Cape York Balkanu Development Corporation and the Torres Strait Regional Authority (TSRA).

    Regional delivery of the project was set out in Regional Activity Plans (RAPs) developed by project partners in consultation with relevant Traditional Owners and local community organisations. Regional Activity Plans identified the long term community aspirations, issues and concerns, previous management and research activity, and proposed project activities including budgets and timelines. Regional Activity Plan format and development was guided and assessed by a Technical Reference Group (TRG) comprising representatives from government, research organisations, industry, NGOs and regional NRM bodies.

    “We have come from nothing and frustration and being reluctant to be involved in the process from the beginning. There is now a solidarity to working together to achieve common goals and direction and purpose, to improve better management for marine turtle and dugong.”

    Senior Traditional Owner explains in his ‘Most Significant Change’ story (a component of the Performance Story evaluation)

    Regional Activity Plans were delivered through contractual arrangements between NAILSMA and project partners, and coordinated by locally based Regional Facilitators who worked closely with the overall Project Coordinator. Cross-regional aspects of the project such as monitoring, reporting and evaluation; communication; knowledge and cultural exchanges; international linkages; participation in government initiatives; research partnerships; and supervision of consultants were managed by the overall Project Coordinator in collaboration with Regional Facilitators.

    Project achievements and outcomes

    The project has contributed significantly to the understanding of dugong and marine turtles through the collection, collation and dissemination of existing knowledge (including Traditional Knowledge and contemporary scientific knowledge); and by generating new knowledge through research collaborations and commissioned studies. The project has improved access to knowledge by creating innovative, culturally appropriate communication tools (including web-based and DVD audiovisual products); and contributing to numerous other communication avenues including newsletters, magazines, public seminars and open days, scientific workshops and conferences, and television and radio media.

    The project has significantly enhanced the capacity of Indigenous people to manage dugong and marine turtles through a range of activities including"

    • developing management and activity plans and work programs

    • supporting the establishment of new ranger programs and Regional Coordinator positions; providing training and skills development opportunities

    • fostering research partnerships; supporting Traditional Owner engagement in numerous relevant government initiatives and committees

    • undertaking a range of on-ground monitoring and survey activities; and

    • developing new data management and reporting tools such as the innovative I-Tracker.

    The project has created a communication and knowledge sharing network that spans north Australia and includes international links and collaborations such as the Native Oceans International Knowledge and Skills Exchange Program. This network of skilled and committed sea country managers spans the migratory range of dugong and marine turtles and provides the foundation for effective and sustainable management of dugong and marine turtles into the future.

    Project reporting and evaluation

    The project has provided quarterly activity and financial reports. Regional reports were collated into overall quarterly project milestone reports, providing a comprehensive coverage of project progress. A Performance Assessment and Monitoring Plan developed internally provided a matrix to assess project progress against objectives and formed the basis of analyses underpinning this final report.

    “From this project, the Australian Government has learnt that Traditional Owners can manage a very large project and achieve the outcomes specified as well as achieving a large number of additional social, cultural, environmental and economic outcomes.”

    An internal Partner Feedback Survey was conducted by an external consultant allowing confidential assessment by project participants and TRG members of project delivery, management and communication. Learnings from this survey have contributed to the refinement of project communication strategies and delivery frameworks for other NAILSMA projects, as well as to the development of a new funding bid for the NAILSMA DMTP.

    The project was also one of 13 projects (and one of the two Indigenous projects) evaluated by the Australian Government (Land and Coasts Team) using the MERI Performance Story methodology. A significant finding of this evaluation was “From this project, the Australian Government has learnt that Traditional Owners can manage a very large project and achieve the outcomes specified as well as achieving a large number of additional social, cultural, environmental and economic outcomes.”

    The impact of the project is further underscored by its success in several regional and national environmental awards including:

    • Winner – Banksia Foundation Environmental Award – Indigenous Section 2008

    • Winner - Australian Government Northern Territory Coastcare Award 2007

    • Finalist – National Landcare Awards - Coastcare 2008

    • Runner Up - Banksia Foundation Environmental Award – People’s Choice Award 2008

    • Runner Up - National Landcare Awards - People’s Choice Award 2008

    “This project is a prime example of communities and governments working in partnership to protect these internationally significant animals, so that future generations can enjoy them as well.”

    Minister for the Environment Peter Garrett, Banksia Award presentation

    The NAILSMA Dugong and Marine Turtle Project has exceeded expectations in building the capacity of Indigenous Australians to participate in the conservation and management of dugong and marine turtles.

    The project has generated a greater knowledge base, innovative communication and monitoring tools, enhanced communication networks, and partnerships between Indigenous and non-Indigenous people and organisations that span northern Australia. These learnings, tools and networks will be crucial to Australia’s success in managing these long-lived, migratory and iconic species. All project participants and collaborators are committed to maintaining this momentum and to working together, and with new Indigenous and non-Indigenous partners. Funds to support this commitment and momentum into the future are being sought by NAILSMA through the Australian Government’s Caring for Our Country initiative and other sources.

    Download the PDF: NAILSMA Dugong and Marine Turtle Project Final Report