Agricultural Capacity of the Indigenous Estate

Activating the Indigenous estate - Baseline study of agricultural capacity

While areas of the Indigenous estate have extraordinary cultural significance for Traditional Aboriginal Owners, there is also considerable interest in locally owned and operated First Nations agricultural enterprises. This extends to expanding the native food and botanicals industry, to involvement in the emerging carbon and water markets, and to fisheries and aquaculture enterprise development on the coast.    

However, the paucity of studies examining the agricultural capacity of the Indigenous estate is a significant barrier to First Nations communities interested in increasing the productivity of their lands.

This project undertakes a situational analysis to identify the baseline Indigenous agricultural sector and potential land use scenarios for activating the Indigenous estate. The research comprises desktop analysis using existing data specific to the overall Indigenous land base and associated tenure, soil type and quality, water resource quantity and quality, community demographics, infrastructure, cultural heritage values, and other determinants for agricultural development.

Separate spatial layers and accounts for each attribute will foster analysis to examine the relationship between Indigenous land and the potential for viable primary production. The international standard System of Environment-Economic Accounting (SEEA) will be used to compile the accounts. Depending on the availability and quality, data will be assessed to identify possible gaps in infrastructure or resources needed to inform any further cost-benefit analysis for investment in particular areas.

A GIS-based Multi Criteria Evaluation (MCE) methodology will be used to create scenario-based outputs weighted towards different priorities (E.g., access to water, agricultural productivity, land tenure, biodiversity conservation). The scenarios will be presented using an interactive Power BI dashboard approach to facilitate discussion and evaluation in workshop settings. Simulations that estimate increasing output from converting existing land and water assets covered by Indigenous rights and interests into primary production will also be provided to show potential contributions to Australia’s primary production.

Case studies of regional agricultural investments on the Indigenous estate will also be undertaken to provide a narrative for an enhanced and widespread understanding of success factors.

The project is being led by ANU’s First Nations Portfolio and in partnership with the Cooperative Research Centre for Developing Northern Australia, Indigenous Land and Sea Corporation (ILSC), and the Commonwealth Department for Agriculture, Water and the Environment.

More information on the ANU’s First Nations Portfolio can be found here -

Photo credot: Dylan De Jonge from


This research is funded through the CRC for Developing Northern Australia (CRCNA). The CRCNA is funded as part of the Australian Government’s Cooperative Research Centre Program (CRC-P).