Activating the Indigenous estate - Baseline study of agricultural capacity

Broadacre Cropping
Bush foods
Strategic policy development
Traditional Owner Led business
Reference number
CRCNA funding
Total project value
Project length
6 months
Finish date
Project Status
Project Manager
Sarah Docherty
Indigenous Land and Sea Corporation


  • Australian National University
  • Department of Agriculture, Water and the Environment


This project will examine the unrealised agricultural potential of the Indigenous estate across Australia. It will also align with national policy agendas and closely examine agricultural development in Northern Australia.

It will examine the scope for adjusting policy settings to transform the value and potential of the Indigenous estate and agricultural economy. The provision of better information, building the capability of Traditional Owners, addressing bias and information asymmetries with financial institutions and investors, and support for agreement-making may enable increased investment and productivity of Indigenous lands and waters.

Project lead ANU proposes to undertake a Situational Analysis for the benefit of First Nations communities and agricultural sector stakeholders on the national economic impacts (including GDP, gross value of production, industry value-add, and employment) of increasing the productivity and profitability of Indigenous land and waters across all primary production markets  such as agriculture, forestry, fisheries and aquaculture industries and the emerging markets for carbon and biodiversity credits.

The baseline study will set the foundation and identify the pre-conditions to further engage First Nations in unlocking the agricultural production potential of the Indigenous estate. The Situational Analysis comprises desktop research using existing data to:

  • Map the bio-cultural assets of the Indigenous estate (E.g. land use, tenure, water, etc.).
  • Prepare a baseline of the nature, size, and value of primary production in the Indigenous agricultural economy.
  • Identify gaps in infrastructure or resources using a System of Environment-Economic Accounting to compile accounts and inform any cost-benefit analysis for investment.
  • Use GIS-based Multi Criteria Evaluation to create scenario-based outputs weighted towards different priorities (e.g. access to water, productivity, tenure, conservation).
  • Generate a range of land use scenarios (i.e. low, medium, high conversions over 10 and 20 years) that will be presented using an interactive dashboard.
  • Prepare case studies of current regional agricultural investments on the Indigenous estate.


Expected outcomes

A key output from the research will be a peer reviewed published report and summary that will be used to inform broad ranging stakeholders regarding public policy and future research interests.

Research outcomes will impact a range of policy and program interests of governments, industry, and First Nations communities.

Key impacts include:

  • First Nations communities and their organisations will have access to information that will assist in raising their understanding, and informing their strategies, about the productivity and profitability of primary production using their lands and waters.
  • Informing the strategic objectives of CRCNA activities in relation to activating the Indigenous estate in Northern Australia. 
  • Informing the strategic objectives of ILSC activities in relation to activating the Indigenous estate across the whole of Australia.
  • Responding to national policy agendas such as the National Agreement on Closing the Gap, Northern Australian Development, and the National Water Initiative.
  • Respond to, and informing, the five pillars of the National Farmers Federation (NFF) 2030 Agricultural Roadmap such as the incorporation of the Indigenous estate and its activation.
  • Facilitate and strengthen partnerships between First Nations organisations, the ILSC and NFF to activate the Indigenous estate for agriculture.
  • Providing a platform for new research and facilitate First Nations community interest in activating their land for agriculture.