Adaptive management is a concept and process that has been widely promoted for many years as a way for managing complex issues. More recently the Australian Government has promoted adaptive management as part of the programs for achieving regional natural resource management (NRM). It is surprising that, despite its simple logic and wide acceptance as the way forward, the effective application of adaptive management principles and practices in NRM regions proves challenging and elusive. One reason may be the disconnect between the capacity of current political and funding mechanisms and the complex and changing needs of natural and human systems in the wide variety of Australian catchments. Another reason may be limited experience and capacities for achieving coordinated outcomes from the multistakeholder processes required for democratic NRM governance.