Media Release

Indigenous partnerships helping to safeguard Australia’s Top End

9 October 2014

For more than two decades a unique partnership with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities has helped safeguard Australia’s vulnerable and remote northern coast from exotic pest, weed and disease arrivals.

Minister for Agriculture, Barnaby Joyce, said that community engagement has been key to the success of the Northern Australia Quarantine Strategy (NAQS) over the last quarter of a century.

“Under NAQS, the Australian Government has developed a trusted and lasting relationship with Indigenous and Torres Strait Islander communities, who play a vital role in safeguarding our northern coastline,” Minister Joyce said.

“It’s a massive task: as most of the NAQS zone is sparsely populated, extremely rugged and highly inaccessible.

“Local knowledge and resources on the ground has proven invaluable in protecting against exotic pests and disease incursions.”

Minister Joyce said NAQS programme officers undertake extensive liaison with communities, pastoralists, businesses and other government agencies throughout northern Australia, including an extensive network of specialist Community Liaison officers throughout the NAQS zone.

“So extensive is community engagement work that the programme now works with people from more than 85 language groups in the Northern Territory, Queensland and Western Australia,” Minister Joyce said.

“One of the reasons that NAQS has successfully become integrated with so many communities throughout the region is that the programme is a major employer of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander officers.

“More than 40 contracts are in place with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander ranger groups throughout northern Australia who undertake vital coastal biosecurity work on a ‘fee-for-service’ basis.

“Not only does this cooperative programme provide valuable training and employment opportunities for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander rangers, they in turn provide the department with access to their intimate knowledge of ‘country.’

“Most people in Torres Strait are either related to or personally know their local Department of Agriculture officer adding an even greater sense of kinship and community within the programme.

“Partnering with local Indigenous and Torres Strait Islander communities continues to be a practical and valuable opportunity to support employment and education while sustaining our unique environment and distinctive way of life.”

For more information about the NAQS programme visit www.agriculture.gov.au/biosecurity/quarantine/naqs