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Our history

The North Australian Indigenous Land and Sea Management Alliance Ltd (NAILSMA) was established to assist Indigenous land and sea managers and owners across northern Australia.

The origins of NAILSMA can be traced back to the 1990’s, where a growing northern Indigenous estate and population meant a change in how the north is viewed, not just by Indigenous people, but by many others. In 2001, we became a member of the Cooperative Research Centre for Tropical Savannas Management under a Memorandum of Understanding between the Kimberley and Northern Land Council and Balkanu Cape York Development Corporation to support emerging Indigenous land and sea management efforts.

Joe Morrison commenced as the foundation convenor in 2003 and from 2004, and we held several large northern forums to seek input into its charter from Indigenous people. The first of these was held on the Menngen Aboriginal Land Trust - Wardaman country in the Northern Territory.

The organisation initially operated as an unincorporated joint venture, then in 2012 we became an independent not-for-profit charitable organization.

Our current member is the Northern Land Council.

There are many individuals and organisations that have contributed to the establishment and growth of NAILSMA and we gratefully acknowledge their efforts and dedication.

IUCN Member organisation

In 2013 NAILSMA was admitted as a Member organisation of the world’s largest professional global conservation body, IUCN (International Union for Conservation of Nature). NAILSMA is the first Indigenous-led Australian organisation to become a member.

IUCN helps the world find solutions to our most pressing conservation and development challenges. In becoming an IUCN Member, NAILSMA commits support to the IUCN Mission: To influence, encourage and assist societies throughout the world to conserve the integrity and diversity of nature and to ensure that any use of natural resources is equitable and ecologically sustainable.

Read more about IUCN

Why NAILSMA was founded

Northern Australia is economically, ecologically, socially and culturally different from the rest of Australia. It is home to the world’s oldest living culture and immense biological and cultural diversity that has become recognized as unique by world standards.

Rapidly growing Indigenous population and vast land holdings and interests across the region are epitomized by outdated management and program delivery. While Indigenous people have been present for a long time in northern Australia, our views and aspirations regarding the north have largely gone unnoticed. It is imperative that Indigenous people are fundamentally part of the future foundation of northern Australia. In many ways, northern Australia represents an opportunity to get the balance between conservation, development and the broad range of expectations correct.

The organisation was established because of the shared history, circumstances, threats and opportunities relating to the granting, then management of the vast Indigenous land and sea estate in northern Australia. Much of the lands where Indigenous people have a form of ownership or interest in, is also home to unique linguistic and cultural diversity, ancient knowledge systems and unique ecosystems.

The future

Today we recognise that any future for Indigenous land and sea management has to be built on a comprehensive approach that is driven by the Indigenous community with governments, the private, corporate and philanthropic sectors.

We are promoting a new model based on robust partnerships through a culture-based economy, which we view as vital to the sustainable development of the north.