Aspects of Australian natural resource management, particularly forestry, such as harvesting from public native forests and establishing large-scale plantations on farmland, have been contentious for many years. In response to such contention with forestry development, local communities are increasingly seeking a role in determining the use and management of forest resources. Despite a growing acceptance of the need for community participation, there has been little analysis of the type and extent of participation that is most effective, and of the costs and benefits of participation in natural resource management. This paper draws on international and Australian experiences to provide a conceptual framework for analysing the role of participation in natural resource management, especially forestry. The authors provide three examples of how community participation has been developed in Australia, and aim to stimulate discussion on the wider role of participation in natural resource management.