Case studies

ACT Biodiversity Adaptation Pathways project

The ACT Biodiversity Adaptation Pathways project delivered a two-stage participatory workshop process to help inform conservation decision-making in an uncertain and changing region. The workshop results will be used to help the ACT achieve desirable long-term conservation outcomes in light of climate change.


The project aims to better inform multiple management strategies based on various climate scenarios.

Biodiversity adaptation pathways workshops

The workshops used contrasting future scenarios to explore potential management and policy responses for the ACT’s priority ecosystems:

  • natural temperate grasslands
  • lowland grassy woodlands
  • river corridors and wetlands.

Workshop 1 focussed on understanding the implications on key drivers, including societal values, and management options, in four different scenarios.

Workshop 2 built on the outputs of workshop 1 and explored the implications of time sequencing and decision-making options under each of the scenarios, and developed adaptation pathways for each.

You can view YouTube clips below from the workshops:


While our region is already trialling many of the Commonwealth’s strategic recommendations for helping biodiversity adapt to climate change, new options were identified for immediate implementation in the ACT's three priority ecosystems. 

In general, workshop participants agreed that broadening our thinking and becoming more flexible in our decision making processes can help us accommodate and better manage for uncertainties.


The project was funded by the Australian Government and delivered by ACT NRM.

Hydrogeological Landscapes (HGL) project

Funded by the Australian Government, ACT NRM contracted NSW Office of Environment and Heritage and NSW Department of Primary Industries to develop a hydrogeological landscape (HGL) framework to fill critical information gaps on landscape function.

The HGL project has classified the ACT into 25 unique landscapes based on biophysical factors such as soils, geology, hydrology, vegetation and climate. These landscapes were subdivided into local management zones based on topographic position such as ridge crest, mid-slope and alluvial plain.

Land management frameworks have been developed alongside soil erosion and salinity risk assessments to help land managers identify appropriate versus inappropriate interventions within management zones.

For example, outputs of the HGL erosion assessment will be used this year to help identify where local revegetation projects, such as tree plantings and establishment of ground cover, can help reverse soil erosion and improve water quality.

The HGL project is also delivering a wetlands climate vulnerability assessment to help define the potential for climate refugia within local management zones.

The final report, including maps and spatial data, will be made publicly available on the ACT NRM website and ACTmapi.


The project was funded by the Australian Government and administered by ACT NRM. ACT NRM contracted NSW Office of Environment and Heritage and NSW Department of Primary Industries to develop the framework.

Burning for Biodiversity

The ‘Burning for Biodiversity’ trials are designed to improve our understanding of the impact of fire regimes on the biodiversity and function of ACT grassland ecosystems.

Map of ACT natural temperate grassland reserves

About the trials

Over a three year period, ecological burns are being undertaken across five natural temperate grassland reserves. Overall around 200 hectares of grassland will be subject to patch burning.

These burns will improve the quality of habitat for native biodiversity. The key aim of these fires is to create a landscape with a patchy structure of short, medium and tall vegetation, as this variability is known to provide the greatest benefit to grassland fauna.
This makes these fires very different from asset protection burns, which are designed to reduce bushfire hazard in residential areas and burn off an entire area.

The first of these ecological burn trials was undertaken in October 2015. 

Insert photo: Patchy burn in Jerrabomberra West natural temperate grassland
Insert photo:  West Jerrabomberra natural temperate grassland

Monitoring of the trials

The ecological burn trials are being monitored to help better understand how fire and fire seasons affect:

  • the structure and composition of grassland ground vegetation
  • grassland fauna
  • plant diversity.

Importantly, monitoring is being undertaken to inform the trial program itself, through an adaptive management approach. This allows ACT Parks and Conservation Service to apply knowledge acquired from each trial burn to successive trials conducted as part of the project.

The monitoring program will be used to build our understanding of how natural temperate grasslands in the ACT change in response to trial fire regimes. This information will be applied to improve our management practices.


This project is a collaboration between ACT NRM, ACT Conservation Research and ACT Parks and Conservation Service. The project is part-funded by the Australian Government National Landcare Programme.

Caring for the Cotter Catchment

Yurung Dhauara aboriginal land management team standing around a scar tree on Isaacs Mountain in the ACT  


The largely native timbered 482 km2 Cotter River catchment west of Canberra was severely affected by the catastrophic 2003 Canberra bushfire. The catchment area is known for its Ramsar-listed alpine Sphagnumbogs and fens, small sub-alpine creeks and the stone cobble-based Cotter River.

Numerous threatened species listed in the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999 can be found in the catchment area.
The ACT Caring for the Cotter Catchment project put together an Aboriginal land management traineeship, from 2011 to 2013, to undertake native habitat restoration and revegetation of damaged areas in the Cotter watershed.

Yurung Dhaura

Yurung Dhaura aboriginal land management team giving a presentation to Greening Australia volunteers about traditional resources

The focus of the ACT Caring for the Cotter Catchment project was to train and skill Aboriginal people in environmental regeneration and traditional land management, and to provide them with an opportunity to apply these skills in on-ground restoration and rehabilitation efforts.

Trainees Krystal Hurst, Adam Shipp, Greg Chatfield, Jake Lester, David Thomas, and Ngunnawal man Wally Bell formed the Yurung Dhaura team.
The team was mentored by ACT Parks and Conservation Service Senior Ngunnawal Ranger, Adrian Brown. Yurung Dhaura members studied Conservation and Land Management Certificates II and III at the Canberra Institute of Technology and gained skills and accreditation in other areas of natural resource management.

Yurung Dhaura is a Ngunnawal term meaning ‘strong earth’.


The team:

  • monitored water quality, pest animal numbers and native fauna and flora
  • collected native tree seeds
  • propagated tree seedlings for environmental restoration and revegetation

The project helped restore the Cotter watershed and achieved:

  • more than 200 hectares of pest animal control
  • 38 hectares of weed control
  • 18.5 hectares of new plantings
  • 38.2 hectares of habitat restorations
  • Close to six kilometres of stream bank restoration

The team also helped document and apply traditional ecological knowledge, and contributed to the development of the Ngunnawal Plant Use field guide book.

The Yurung Dhaura team won the Indigenous Land Management Award at the 2014 National Landcare Awards and the ACT NAIDOC Caring for Country 2013 Award for their achievements. Two members were nominated for the ACT Trainee of the Year Award, and one member won the ACT NAIDOC Apprentice/Trainee of the Year Award.

Following the completion of the project, all team members found employment. One team member was employed by Greening Australia Capital Region and another by ACT Parks and Conservation Service. Other team members are working in Legal Aid, Medicare Local, landscaping and in a family heritage and natural resource management business.

A video about the project is available at:


The ACT Caring for the Cotter Catchment project (2011–13) was funded by the Australian Government and delivered by the ACT Government. ACT NRM employed the trainees and the ACT Parks and Conservation Service hosted and supervised members of the team working on Country.

The project attracted many partners and supporters, including the United Ngunnawal Elders Council and members of the local Aboriginal community, Canberra Institute of Technology, ACT Health Directorate, the Ngunnawal Bush Healing Farm, ActewAGL, Greening Australia, the Southern ACT Catchment Group, Waterwatch and the Australian Government.

Culture and Country Program


The Culture and Country Program showcases inter-sectoral collaboration and contributes towards progressing the ACT Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander community’s social, environmental and economic objectives which include to:

  • increase Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander youth involvement in Aboriginal natural resource management
  • increase Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander employment and enterprise in the environment sector
  • help address Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander community justice and health issues.

The Culture and Country Program offers Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people who are in detention an opportunity to:

  • build self-esteem and pride through traditional identity and knowledge
  • improve leadership skills
  • improve natural resource management skills and qualifications
  • strengthen support systems and networks
  • offer hope.


The ACT Government and ACT Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Elected Body have developed a Justice Partnership Agreement (2015–18) to reduce Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander over-representation in the criminal justice system.

The ACT has the third highest rate of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander young offenders (aged 10–17 years) in detention nationally. An Indigenous young person aged 10–17 years is 11 times as likely to be under community-based supervision as a non-Indigenous person aged 10–17 years, and 22 times as likely to be in detention.

Making change happen

Since August 2014, ACT Aboriginal Natural Resource Management (NRM) Facilitator, Darren Chong, and Greening Australia Capital Region’s Indigenous Restoration Officer, Adam Shipp, have been delivering an Aboriginal culture and land management course to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander detainees in Canberra’s jail, the Alexander Maconochie Centre. The program engages detainees who participate in the jail’s Culture and Land Management (CALM) program that is delivered by the ACT Corrective Services and the registered training organisation, Campbell-Page.

The program delivers training to up to 20 detainees per session, covering topics such as identifying Aboriginal scarred trees, growing native plants, identifying and using bush tucker plants, processing native seed, identifying heritage artefacts and identifying impacts of feral animals on biodiversity.

A recent addition to the program has been traditional weaving and animal doll making delivered by Kalkadoon woman, Ronnie Jordan, of Culture on the Move. The weaving has had a big impact culturally on detainees, and has provided a calming and rehabilitative experience through which they can learn and share knowledge.

The Alexander Maconochie Centre also runs a Transitional Release Centre where detainees who are due to complete their sentence are allowed day release under supervision to attend various programs, including the Winnunga Men’s Group. Once a month the ACT Aboriginal NRM Facilitator organises a cultural or caring for country type activity with Winnunga Men’s Group, which includes Aboriginal ex-detainees who have participated in the training within the jail.


Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander detainees have shown interest by participating in group activities and sharing their own cultural knowledge. A number of the detainees have displayed clear leadership skills by supporting and encouraging other Indigenous detainees to attend and support the sessions. ACT Corrective Services staff have noted that the sessions run by Darren and Adam are proving very popular in engaging Indigenous detainees in natural resource management training.

The program has helped a number of detainees to successfully complete their Conservation and Land Management Certificate II, improving their employment prospects upon release.

Given the success of this pilot program, ACT Corrective Services and the ACT Aboriginal NRM Facilitator are exploring options to expand the program to include opportunities for detainees to become involved in seed production, plant propagation and environmental restoration with the aim of improving opportunities for detainees released from the jail to participate in natural resource management.


This program is a collaboration between ACT NRM, ACT Corrective Services and Greening Australia Capital Region, and is funded by the Australian Government National Landcare Programme.

Ngunnawal Plant Use

  Ngunnawal Plant Use cover 

Field guide for regional plants

The Aboriginal custodians of the ACT, the Ngunnawal people, used and continue to use the plant resources of the region for food, medicine, tools and weapons, fire, ceremonial purposes, water, fibre, dye and paint.

Ngunnawal Plant Use is a field guide that records this traditional knowledge and its use in a contemporary context for 69 regional plants that have played a significant role in the lives and history of the Ngunnawal people.

The book includes:

  • an introduction to Ngunnawal history and natural resource use
  • a guide to using the book
  • references for 69 plant species with a description of their distribution, method of propagation and Ngunnawal use

To purchase

Ngunnawal Plant Use is available for purchase as a full-colour, A5, spiral-bound, 96-page book.
Proceeds from the sale of the Ngunnawal Plant Use book support Aboriginal natural resource management in the ACT.


$22 (GST inclusive)
For purchases made from this website, the price includes postage and handling.

Available for purchase from

Ngunnawal Plant Use can be purchased through the following outlets:

  • Online (If you do not have acces to online payment facilities, call Access Canberra on 13 22 81 for assistance with your purchase)
  • Namadgi National Park Visitors Centre, ACT
  • Tidbinbilla Nature Reserve Visitors Centre, ACT
  • The Botanical Bookshop, Australian National Botanic Gardens, Canberra
  • The Curatoreum, Village Centre, National Arboretum, Canberra
  • Greening Australia, Kubura Place, Aranda, Canberra
  • Canberra and Region Visitors Centre, Dickson, Canberra
  • Through Access Canberra – call 13 22 81

Wholesale purchases

If you are a retailer and would like to purchase copies of the book at a wholesale price to sell to the public, please email us or phone 13 22 81


The book was developed by ACT NRM in partnership with the ACT Parks and Conservation Service, the United Ngunnwal Elders Council, the Ngunnawal community, Greening Australia, Yurung Dhaura Aboriginal Land Management team  employed under the ACT Caring for the Cotter Catchment project and Murrumbung Yurung Murra staff (a network of ACT Government Aboriginal staff working in NRM, Heritage and Parks).

Graphic Design and Production by Carolyn Brooks Illustration and Design.

Funding for the development of the book was provided by the Australian Government.