In the 1970s and 1980s, recognition of land rights in the Northern Territory highlighted nationally the importance of land management by Indigenous people on Indigenous land. The term ‘caring for country’ became popularised to describe this land management. The description of caring for country as ‘Indigenous peoples land and sea management’ logically draws attention to the environmental and landscape management outcomes of this activity, however caring for country also has benefits for the social-political, cultural, economic, physical and emotional wellbeing of Indigenous peoples. There is a growing field of research documenting that caring for country is intricately linked to maintaining cultural life, identity, autonomy and health. Native title and other land rights regime have extended the formal recognition of Indigenous people’s land holdings, and caring for country is important not just for local places, but for the coordination of environmental issues that have national reach.
The Department of Sustainability, Environment, Water, Population and Communities commissioned LWRC researchers to compile a literature review on the benefits of caring for country. The literature review begins by scoping what caring for country means within our intercultural society, and why connection with country is important. This is followed with a discussion of the influential literature on country, health and Indigenous wellbeing. These two sections establish the framework for understanding the benefits that flow from caring for country.
In addition to health and wellbeing, the paper has organised the benefits as cultural and socio-political benefits; economic benefits; and environmental benefits. This discussion includes some of the barriers to achieving benefits as well as anticipated and realised benefits of caring for country. Much of the innovation in this field is in the exploration of health and country, and the matching of economic and environmental goals. Because of the reach of caring for country into diverse aspects of Indigenous wellbeing, documenting the benefits of this activity is a multidisciplinary exercise. Given the scope of the subject and the time limitations, this literature review offers a sample of the thinking in this area that is a useful starting point for deeper inquiry.
Weir, JK, Stacey, C & Youngentob, K 2011, 'The Benefits Associated with Caring for Country: Literature Review.' Report for the Department of Sustainability, Environment, Water, Population and Communities (SEWPaC), SEWPaC, Canberra .