It’s 2030, imagine if…

The Ecosystem Services Economy (ESE) framework allowed First Nations Australians to unlock the economic potential of their Country, applying their own Ecosystem Services (ES) business model to Caring for Country. In 2025 the project co-developed a comprehensive set of hybrid indicators and measures with both Traditional Owners and the private sector, ensuring the viability and integrity of the model with the global Biodiversity market. Communities across Australia are now able to capitalise on their knowledge of biodiversity, water and land resources, while also accessing meaningful and culturally appropriate economic opportunities. Across Northern Australia, the estimated value of ES projects for Indigenous communities alone is >$200 million per year. Its widespread uptake has also enhanced non-Indigenous Australians’ well-being by effectively protecting biodiversity and managing natural resources.

Summary of solution

Developing incentivised Ecosystem Services economies will enable Indigenous communities across northern Australia and worldwide to manage their natural resources in culturally appropriate and sustainable ways. This project expands upon current carbon economies which are focused on greenhouse gas emissions abatement. It will co-develop an ecosystem services economies framework, in collaboration with Indigenous stakeholders,  incorporating Indigenous socio-cultural and the ecological values.

The framework will offer a culturally appropriate tool to trade ecosystem services in the market and attract investment to manage country holistically. Fine-scale Indigenous management will deliver multiple ecosystem services through protecting biodiversity, water resources, and preventing the degradation of land, while delivering significant socio-economic and cultural benefits to the communities.

Why is this solution innovative

This project aims to advance economic opportunities for Indigenous communities across Northern Australia by developing culturally appropriate ecosystem services economies. They will co-develop an ecosystem services economies model, in collaboration with Indigenous and business stakeholders, including an integrated set of indicators, measures and assessment tools, accounting for a diverse range of ES from Indigenous estates, befitting Indigenous and business contexts. This project will deliver substantial social outcomes including creating meaningful jobs and economic opportunities on country which will help initiate other small enterprises, empowering people by recognising their knowledge of country and building a sense of pride, and enhancing peoples' capabilities to manage their lands effectively.

This project will investigate a Traditional Owner led payment for ecosystems services (PES) enterprise framework in northern Australia that has potential application nationally, as well as globally.