Livelihoods in desert Australia from managing natural and cultural resources: DustWatch possibilities.

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Strong, Craig
McTainsh, Grant
Leys, J.
Davies, J
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Livelihoods of the wider community in desert Australia are under pressure and some of the proposals explored in this report may assist small businesses and Aboriginal Australians to advance their livelihoods. This study considers the potential of a community environmental monitoring program, DustWatch, to stimulate livelihoods in desert Australia. Acknowledging that ecosystem and cultural services underpin the sustainability of the environment as well as the health and wellbeing of desert people, communities and industries, this study uses DustWatch as an intermediate focus point between the environment and livelihoods. Using a simple economic supply and demand model, DustWatch is viewed as the conduit through which the suppliers interface with the demanders of ecosystem and cultural service information. The proposed DustWatch Livelihoods model identifies two pathways in which the livelihoods of DustWatchers could be stimulated. The first is through traditional ‘markets’, such as government agencies and regional bodies, which require natural resource monitoring to meet their regional, national or international environmental goals and commitments. The second is through a non-traditional ‘market’, which acknowledges that the media and tourism industry find the outback image desirable.
There is potential for inhabitants of desert Australia to access both of these pathways through their membership of DustWatch. Landholders and Aboriginal groups have the capacity and advantage of isolation to offer natural resource monitoring services to governments. This would require new administrative structures to enable either individuals or groups to tender to provide the required data.
Small businesses could harness the media and tourist interest expressed in the cultural and environmental significance of desert Australia. Trends in tourist activities suggest that increasing numbers of people are interested in visiting remote rural regions. Groups such as retired caravaners, or 4WDers frequently travel through the desert region. Local businesses are beginning to acknowledge that coastal urban travellers have a positive perception of the outback and are interested in exploring this culture. By embracing and sharing the outback culture, smaller businesses are likely to attract further patronage. The cultural services pathway in the DustWatch model identifies a number of marketing strategies which can be used by local businesses to both enhance their appeal to travellers and to help build connections between urban and rural DustWatchers.

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