Senior Advisory Group established to review joint management in Commonwealth National Parks

31 March 2021

Minister for the Environment Sussan Ley has continued her commitment to work with Traditional Owners in the management of Commonwealth National Parks, announcing the establishment of a Senior Advisory Group to examine current joint management arrangements.

The Hon. Amanda Vanstone AO and Mr Joe Martin-Jard will co-chair the six-person Senior Advisory Group whose members have been chosen for their experience and expertise in governance and Indigenous affairs.

The announcement follows meetings between Minister Ley and Traditional Owners of Kakadu National Park last year, which saw a number of structural changes within Parks Australia. These changes have seen the appointment of two Park Managers, including at least one Traditional Owner, and a key senior executive position relocated from Canberra to Darwin.

The six member panel is: The Hon. Amanda Vanstone AO (Co-chair), Mr Joe Martin-Jard (Co-chair), Ms Helen Williams AC, The Hon. Shane L Stone AC QC, Mr Nolan Hunter, Ms Denise Bowden.          

Booderee, Kakadu and Uluru-Kata Tjuta National Parks are all Aboriginal land that is leased to the Commonwealth to be jointly managed with the Director of National Parks through Parks Australia.

“These are sites of enormous cultural significance and of rich environmental biodiversity,” Minister Ley said.

“The Group will help identify the best ways to protect these values and ensure that the Traditional Owners have control over the way the land is managed.

“In some cases, current management arrangements have been in place for over 40 years, and it is time we looked at them through the lens of today and the nation’s recognition of Traditional Ownership and title.”

“Each member of the Senior Advisory Group brings a wealth of experience across Indigenous and government affairs and I am confident their contribution will help shape future joint management arrangements between Parks Australia and Traditional Owners.

The Senior Advisory Group will provide their recommendations in the second half of 2021.

About the group:

Amanda Vanstone AO: The Hon Amanda Vanstone AO has more than 30 years of government experience and held four Ministerial portfolios during the Howard Government (1996-2007). She was Minister for Immigration and Multicultural and Indigenous Affairs, and Minister Assisting the Prime Minister for Reconciliation, from October 2003 to January 2006. Ms Vanstone was a member of the Referendum Council that produced the Uluru Statement from the Heart in 2017.

Mr Joe Martin-Jard: joined the Central Land Council in the Chief Executive Officer role in February 2019. Mr Martin-Jard is also a Director of the Northern Territory Farmers Association. Born and raised in the Northern Territory, his family ties are to the Kamilaroi people of southern Queensland.  He has extensive tertiary qualifications in education and business management, including a Bachelor of Teaching (Adult/Vocational) and a Masters in International Management from Charles Darwin University. Mr Martin-Jard also brings experience from the private and non-government sectors, having held leadership positions in Darwin’s Danila Dilba Health Service and the Aboriginal Medical Services Alliance of the Northern Territory, and having also managed a Top End labour hire company.

The Hon Shane L Stone AC QC: is a former Chief Minister of the Northern Territory (1995-1999) and former Minister for Tourism NT. He served in the Northern Territory Legislative Assembly for almost 10 years. His portfolios included Attorney-General; Education and the Arts (including remote regional schools); Employment and Training; Mines and Energy; Industries and Development; and Asian Relations and Trade. He has had a close working relationship with the Northern Territory cattle industry over many years, especially concerning live trade to Indonesia, the Philippines and Brunei. In 2014 Mr Stone was appointed Chairman of the Northern Australian Advisory Group by then Prime Minister Tony Abbott.

Ms Helen Williams AC:  made history as the first woman to be appointed as Secretary of an Australian Government department when she was appointed Secretary of the Department of Education in 1985, aged 39. Ms Williams joined the public service 15 years prior in 1970. She went on to be the Secretary of several other portfolio departments: Department of Tourism; Department of Immigration and Multicultural Affairs; Department of Communications, Information Technology and the Arts; and Department of Human Services, before her retirement in 2009. She was also the Australian Public Service Commissioner from 1998 to 2002. For 17 years she was the only female departmental Secretary.

Mr Nolan Hunter: Nolan Hunter is a strong advocate for land rights and has been heavily involved in the fight for Native Title through his involvement with the Kimberley Land Council. Mr Hunter is a Bardi man, with strong links to his people and culture along the Dampier Peninsula. He has a professional background in strategic operations and staff management, which spans more than 20 years. Mr Hunter has been Chief Executive Officer of the Kimberley Land Council; Chairman of the National Native Title Council; and a member of the Kimberley Regional Planning Committee. He is a founding member of the First Peoples’ Water Engagement Council and has participated in national and international conferences on water and climate change including the United Nations Climate Change Conference in Copenhagen; the Fifth World Water Forum; and the International Climate Change Conference.

Ms Denise Bowden is Chief Executive Officer of the Yothu Yindi Foundation (YYF) and Director of the annual Garma Festival.  Ms Bowden has worked for many years with Yolngu clans of north-east Arnhem Land and has an extensive knowledge base in Indigenous affairs, particularly Australia’s remote north. Prior to her work at YYF and Garma, she held a number of senior management positions and non-Executive local committee positions. Ms Bowden has extensive experience working for previous Northern Territory Chief Ministers, and Indigenous Ministers within the Northern Territory government.