Our Story

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

Regardless of how large and complex the challenges are in northern Australia, our approach is driven by the need to foster and grow Indigenous innovation and excellence through partnerships and Indigenous leadership - achieving high impact positive outcomes.

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.

In 2003-04 several large northern forums were held to seek input into NAILSMA's charter from Indigenous people. In 2012 we became an independent not-for-profit charitable organization. Our current member is the Northern Land Council.

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) and is the first Indigenous-led Australian organisation to become a member.

Why NAILSMA was founded

Northern Australia is home to the world’s oldest living culture and immense biological and cultural diversity that has become recognized as unique by world standards. 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, are 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.

IUCN Membership

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

Company members

The current member of NAILSMA is the Northern Land Council.

The Northern Land Council is an independent statutory authority. It is responsible for assisting Aboriginal peoples in the Top End of the Northern Territory to acquire and manage their traditional lands and seas. In 1976 the Parliament of Australia passed the Aboriginal Land Rights (Northern Territory) Act 1976 (ALRA). Since then approximately 50 percent of the land in the NT has become Aboriginal land in addition to 85 percent of the coastline. A large proportion of the remaining land mass is subject to Native Title interests.

Approximately 30,000 Aboriginal people live within the NLC region. While many live in major towns there are almost 200 communities ranging in size from small family outstations to settlements of up to 3,000 people.

Website: Northern Land Council