Aboriginal Economic Development - what we deliver

Page last updated: Wednesday, 27 September 2023 - 11:54am

The Department of Primary Industries and Regional Development (DPIRD) builds the capacity of Aboriginal people to become entrepreneurs, skilled employees and leaders through bespoke projects and tailored initiatives. 

Each project and initiative is a unique combination of supports such as mentoring, training, work placement, professional services, grants, guidance and resources.  

Supports are delivered by DPIRD's AED Unit through direct collaboration with Aboriginal people, through the engagement of external service providers, or in partnership. 

DPIRD's Aboriginal Economic Development (AED) Program is delivered through projects and a range of pre-designed tailored intiatives aimed at unlocking and activating the Aboriginal economic opportunities of WA's land and sea-based primary industries and regions. Each project is focused on capacity building through a suite of supports and services, that will lead to the growth of sustainable Aboriginal businesses, long term careers for Aboriginal people and lasting wealth creation.

Projects are unique, with supports tailored to Aboriginal aspirations, their traditions and culture, and specific development needs. Pre-designed initatives such as grants, training and mentoring programs are aimed at building capacity in governance, leadership and regional procurement, growing WA's Aboriginal pastoral estate, and increasing Aboriginal economic participation in targeted industries.

Projects and initiatives are delivered through DPIRD's AED Unit and where possible in partnership with Aboriginal owned and operated service providers and entities. The Unit's role and delivery methods will vary, depending on factors such as industry, resourcing, and DPIRD's Whole of Government commitments. AED Unit staff may provide direct support to Aboriginal entities through engagement and collaboration, or facilitate and coordinate support through Regional Development Commissions, external service providers, or in partnership with industry. 

Supports and services

  • Mentoring
  • Coaching
  • Targeted training
  • Work placement 
  • Tender application support
  • Governance foundation grants
  • Economic scoping and mapping
  • Industry accreditation support
  • Brokering access to finances and land    
  • Engaging professonal services 
  • Advice and guidance
  • Printed resources
  • Advocacy
  • Research and development

Aboriginal Pastoral Program


The Aboriginal Pastoral Program (APP) was established to expand DPIRD’s 26 year old pastoral support program. With Aboriginal pastoral enterprises representing 31% of WA’s entire pastoral estate, there is enormous potential to create a pathway to economic empowerment and self-determination through a thriving Aboriginal pastoral sector.

The APP is aimed at meeting the economic development needs of a new generation of Aboriginal pastoral enterprises, while still supporting the old. Since the 1990s DPIRD has been supporting long term economic development pathways that can meet the generational goals of Aboriginal people - to grow self-managed and profitable pastoral enterprises that can be passed on to the next generation.

The APP is comprised of DPIRD’s traditional governance support, and three additional sub-programs that can support Aboriginal enterprises at all points along their journey. Some pastoral properties are still at the beginning of their development pathway, while some have grown into multi-million dollar enterprises ready to take on a leadership role. Others are looking for new growth opportunities, and training opportunities to create an Aboriginal workforce.

DPIRD initiatives over the past 26 years such as the Indigenous Management Support Project and the Indigenous Land Service were pioneers of an approach that was decades ahead of the vision and intent of Closing the Gap. This was evidenced by a number of public sector and economic development awards during the 2000s - most notably Premier's and Prime Minister's awards for excellence. This approach, which became the backbone of DPIRD’s AED Program including the APP initiative, ensures that support is:

  • driven by the goals of Aboriginal people
  • delivered through a collaborative partnership that is led by Aboriginal pastoral corporation boards
  • designed to maintain the integrity of their culture, traditions and lifestyles
  • focused on generational goals
  • whole-of-enterprise and whole-of-community capacity building to enable successive generations to expand on the vision of their elders and improve their way of life.

APP sub-programs

The APP’s four sub-programs are reflective of an integrated and holistic approach to supporting WA's Aboriginal pastoral enterprises.

Foundations for business governance

Governance support is the foundation of DPIRD’s pastoral support initiatives, and the starting point for pastoral enterprise development. Improved governance is the key to productivity, profitability and growth. It leads to better planning and financial management, and better decision-making in relation to profitability factors such as herd capacity, infrastructure, financing, and whether to adopt alternative business models.

DPIRD’s AED Unit officers work with Aboriginal pastoral corporation boards and station managers to ensure that supports are tailored to their development needs. This may require the engagement of professional, legal, accounting or other specialist service providers. Support is also available through DPIRD’s Building Better Aboriginal Business grant program.

Setting up for Success

This initiative supports high-risk Aboriginal pastoral enterprises to review and transition to new business models, such as agistment, subleases and grazing licences. New models can lead to commercial investment and provide an opportunity for pastoral corporations to step away from self-management and increase income generation from their properties.

Investment can come in the form of improving pastoral property infrastructure such as fencing, herd and waterpoints, on Country employment and training opportunities for Aboriginal youth, and reduced animal welfare risks.

DPIRD has developed a Business Model for Aboriginal Pastoral Businesses Setting up for Success Guide, which can be used as a step by step guide for the implementation of new business models.

Pastoral training

Training aimed at developing pastoral skills plays an important role in the development of pastoral industry careers for Aboriginal people, opportunities for leadership, and the growth of a workforce for the Aboriginal pastoral industry.

DPIRD, through initiatives such as the Aboriginal Pastoral Academy (APA), facilitates the development of training to employment pathways that can match the aspirations of Aboriginal people with the pastoral industry’s labour needs. The APA initiative in particular delivers a range of accredited and non-accredited skills training, personal development and industry exposure. It also offers professional development for existing Aboriginal pastoral employees.

Industry representation and participation

Growth of the Aboriginal pastoral industry is further supported through initiatives to increase Aboriginal participation in broader peak pastoral industry groups and major events. This support paves the way for Aboriginal Pastoral Corporation board members and property managers to become industry leaders, and to represent and give a voice to WA's Aboriginal pastoral industry. 

Aboriginal Pastoral Academy (APA)

Aboriginal Pastoral Academy - inaugural participants 2021

The Aboriginal Pastoral Academy (APA) was established to nurture the next generation of Aboriginal pastoral employees in the WA's northern regions. The APA is a sub-program of DPIRD’s Aboriginal Pastoral Program (APP), which supports Aboriginal pastoral enterprises to become productive, profitable and sustainable for future generations.

The APA develops training to employment pathways for Aboriginal people aspiring to a career in pastoralism. Training programs provide Aboriginal people with practical cattle and horse handling skills, as well as the foundational skills needed to develop the knowledge and confidence to be ‘job ready’.

This intiative was introduced in 2020 in response to industry requests for a skilled, entry-level cohort of Aboriginal people who could help grow the pastoral industry workforce. The APA has since been expanded thanks to a partnership between DPIRD, the Kimberley Pilbara Cattleman’s Association KPCA and Nyamba Buru Yawuru.

A significant milestone for APA was the completion of a 10 week pre-employment training program (on-station) by ten participants (mostly Aboriginal youth) who went straight into pastoral employment for the 2023 season. The training was delivered in partnership with Nyamba Buru Yawuru’s Warrmijala Murrgurlayi Rise up to Work program. Support for participants will continue through on-the-job mentoring and skills training.