Indigenous Forestry | UniSC | University of the Sunshine Coast, Queensland, Australia

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Indigenous Forestry

Around 23% (2 million km2) of Australia is owned and or managed by Indigenous people including a total of approximately 14% of all of Australia’s forests and woodlands, mostly in tropical northern Australia.

Huge opportunity for communities to develop forestry activities pre and post mining

Led by Mark Annandale, Tropical Forests and People Research Centre are developing a portfolio of projects including:

  • Aurukun Indigenous Protected Area
  • Pre-mine natural forest salvage logging business planning, strategic planning through
  • Mine Rehabilitation Forestry Plantation Research and Development for mine land rehabilitation

Duration: 2017 to 2022

This project supports the establishment of a diversified Indigenous forest industry that will maximise Indigenous jobs by harvesting timber and non-timber forest resources from areas to be cleared as part of bauxite mining operations and establishing plantation forestry trials as part of mine-site rehabilitation. The project is being implemented at the Hey Point Bauxite Mine (in the Weipa-Aurukun region of Far North QLD) that is operated by the small Australian-based mining company Green Coast Resources. Current pre-mining practices in the study region include the clearing and burning of valuable native forest resources. These resources can instead be used for Indigenous economic development. Current rehabilitation practices in the study region have had mixed environmental outcomes and provided limited benefits for the local Indigenous community. There is potential to improve the mine-site rehabilitation outcomes through establishment of sustainable land-uses. The project is supported by the mining sector and the QLD Government. It will help to reduce waste and environmental impacts, and generate improved Indigenous socio-economic and cultural benefits by establishing mine rehabilitation land-use options that provide jobs and business development. The project will provide proof of concept for wide-scale adoption by the mining sector.

Partners and Funding bodies

Lead organisation: The Tropical Forests and People Research Centre (TFAP), University of the Sunshine Coast (UniSC).

Partner organisations:

  • Green Coast Resources (GCR) Pty Ltd
  • Wik Timber Holdings Pty Ltd (an Indigenous-owned and operated timber harvesting business)
  • University of Queensland (UQ Sustainable Minerals Institute - Centre for Mined Land Rehabilitation)
  • Southern Cross University (SCU Forest Research Centre)
  • My Pathways (a national education, training and employment services provider)
Funding bodies
  • QLD State Government Advance Queensland Innovation Partnerships
  • Green Coast Resources Pty Ltd
  • University of the Sunshine Coast
  • University of Queensland
Expected outcomes (including environmental and Indigenous community benefits)

The project will inform policymakers, the mining industry and Indigenous communities in the design and implementation of mine-site relinquishment criteria and associated pre- and post-mining management plans and strategies that will generate improved environmental outcomes and socio-cultural benefits for impacted Indigenous communities. These outcomes and benefits will include:

  • Local Indigenous business and employment support for forest resource assessment, seed collection, seedling production, and implementation of mine-site rehabilitation land-use options and resource ownership models
  • Quantification of pre-mining forest resources and biomass, greenhouse gas emissions from current practices, and achievable reductions from alternative practices
  • Maximised forest resource utilisation to reduce waste and greenhouse gas emissions
  • Pre-mining integrated timber harvesting incorporating high-value products (i.e. veneer and sawlogs), salvage-grade products (sawlogs, posts for local use) and the chipping of residues for mulch, biofuels and biochar
  • Economic analysis and commercial pathways for the range of forest products including local bioenergy
  • Sustainable forestry and operational harvest plans incorporating Indigenous forest management practices including cultural resource utilisation and traditional burning regimes
  • Identification of culturally-appropriate land-use options for mine-site rehabilitation
  • Improved mine-site rehabilitation using local species, enhanced site and soil management, and best-practice silviculture
  • Identification of mine-site rehabilitation resource ownership, profit and equity sharing models that acknowledge cultural frameworks
Project team

Project Leader: Mark Annandale – Research Manager/Senior Research Fellow, TFAP, UniSC.

Project Management and Research Support: Dr John Meadows – Research Fellow, TFAP, UniSC

Indigenous Community Engagement/Pre- and Post-Mining Land Use: Gina Castelain – Research Fellow, TFAP, UniSC & Wik Timber Holdings

Post-Doctoral Researcher (mine rehabilitation specialist): UQ Research Fellow TBA

Post-Mining Soils and Rehabilitation Management: Associate Professor Peter Erskine and Associate Professor Longbin Huang – CMLR, UQ

Forest Biomass Studies: Associate Professor Grahame Applegate – TFAP, UniSC

Bioenergy Supply Chains: Dr Mohammad Ghaffariyan – Research Fellow, Forest Industries Research Centre (FIRC), UniSC

Biofuels/Bioenergy Technologies: Dr Graeme Palmer – Senior Research Fellow, FRC, SCU

Research Higher Degree (Masters/PhD) Student: TBA – UQ/UniSC

Research Advisory Group –

The Research Advisory Group meets quarterly to review project progress, plan the work schedule for the following quarter, and develop research outputs. The group comprises the following individuals –

Get involved

There are a number of ways you can be involved in this research work, including:

  • Receiving updates on project progress
  • Attending workshops and/or events held on Indigenous forestry
  • Becoming a potential partner
  • Becoming a research student with the group
  • Being a visiting scholar/student (spending a short period of time with the group working on different parts of the project - may include field work)
  • Volunteering
  • Community member feedback and participation
  • Government department representatives feedback and participation
  • Policy makers feedback and participation
  • Industry members feedback and participation
  • General ideas and feedback for group

You can get involved by emailing

We look forward to hearing from you.