We identify four principles that can promote the prospects of health outcomes for desert Aboriginal people from livelihoods engaged with land management. The principles were derived inductively using a grounded theory approach, drawing on primary research that used qualitative and participatory methods, and from relevant literature and theoretical frameworks. International and Australian literature offers evidence that supports desert Aboriginal people's view that their health depends on their relationship with their land. Engagement with land management can lead desert Aboriginal people to feel that their own actions are consistent with their own sense of the right and proper way for them to behave towards land, family and community. This increased 'sense of control' impacts positively on health by moderating the impact of sustained stress from health risk factors in the environment and lifestyle. The four principles focus on underlying characteristics of Aboriginal land management that are important to promoting this increased 'sense of control': (1) Aboriginal land management governance recognises and respects Aboriginal custom and tradition, and is adaptive; (2) learning is embraced as a life-long process; (3) relationships are recognised as very important; and (4) partnerships give priority to doing things that all parties agree are important. These principles are presented as hypotheses that warrant further development and testing. While they do not account specifically for the impact of lifestyle and environmental factors on health, we expect that the increased sense of control that desert Aboriginal people are likely to develop when involved in Aboriginal land management that applies these principles will moderate the impact of such factors on their health. The principles offer a starting point for further development of criteria and standards for good practice in Aboriginal land management, potentially including an environmental certification scheme that integrates social and environmental outcomes.