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Sustainability Concepts in Indigenous and Non-Indigenous Cultures

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  20 July 2016

David Throsby
Department of Economics, Macquarie University, Sydney, Australia; Email:
Ekaterina Petetskaya
Department of Economics, Macquarie University, Sydney, Australia
E-mail address:


The concepts of sustainability, and of the more specific notion of sustainable development, have become entrenched in national and international policy making over the last half century. However, little attention has been paid to sustainability as it relates to indigenous communities. This article discusses sustainability concepts as understood in indigenous and non-indigenous societies, drawing a number of illustrations from the experiences and practices of the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples of Australia. We point out that the two approaches to sustainability share many common concerns, although significant differences are evident. While the paradigm of sustainability can be seen as a universal concept that can be applied irrespective of social, political, or cultural context, it is argued that a fully realized model of sustainability for application in non-indigenous societies will only be possible if it acknowledges the importance of culture and incorporates the insights that have been accumulated over generations in indigenous knowledge systems.

Research Article
Copyright © International Cultural Property Society 2016 

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