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Indigenous Communities & the Environment

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Indigenous Protected Areas

The Indigenous Protected Areas (IPA) program is part of Australia's National Reserve System Program which aims to establish a network of protected areas which includes a representative sample of all types of ecosystems across the country. The National Reserve System Program is itself a part of the Australian Government's Natural Heritage Trust.

With support from the IPA program, Indigenous landowners commit themselves to manage their lands for the protection of natural and cultural features in accordance with internationally recognised standards and guidelines.

To date, 13 Indigenous protected areas have been declared over Aboriginal land, covering more than 3.1 million hectares and adding significantly to the National Reserve System. The IPA program funds management plans and practical work to protect natural and cultural features and to contribute to conserving biological diversity.

Declared Indigenous protected areas

NANTAWARRINA was the first Indigenous Protected Area declared, in August 1998. It covers 58,000 ha and is adjacent to the southern boundary of Gammon Ranges National Park in the northern Flinders Ranges of South Australia. Title to the land is held by the South Australian Aboriginal Lands Trust on behalf of the Adnyamathanha people from Nepabunna. This community manages the property with which they have traditional ties. The declaration of an Indigenous Protected Area over Nantawarrina demonstrates a commitment from the Aboriginal landowners to manage the area for biodiversity conservation and cultural values. The Nepabunna community won a United Nations Environment Day award in June 2000 for rehabilitating Nantawarrina.

PREMINGHANA was declared an IPA in June 1999. The 524 ha property on Tasmania's north-west coast was one of the parcels of land returned to the Tasmanian Aboriginal community under the Aboriginal Lands Act 1995. The property has significant environmental and cultural features and is listed on the Register of the National Estate. It is managed by the Tasmanian Aboriginal Land Council.

DEEN MAAR was declared an IPA in July 1999. The 453 ha property, 50 km west of Warrnambool in Victoria, is managed by the Framlingham Aboriginal Trust. Work on the property is focussed on rehabilitating the degraded wetland and coastal dune system. Significant effort has also gone into reducing the rabbit population, controlling weeds, revegetation and track maintenance. Up to 20 orange bellied parrots (15 per cent of the total known population) were found recently on the IPA.

RISDON COVE IPA was declared in July 1999. The 109 ha property, approximately 10 km east of Hobart, is managed by the Tasmanian Aboriginal Centre. The management plan for the property includes recording and evaluating the cultural heritage significance and the natural values of the area. This project has strong Aboriginal community involvement as it incorporates areas of cultural importance and is close to the large population centre of Hobart.

OYSTER COVE was declared an IPA in July 1999. Located 30 km south of Hobart, Oyster Cove is 32 ha and is managed by the Tasmanian Aboriginal Centre. Forests on the IPA contain nocturnal mammals, reptiles and birds, while the wetland mudflats contain crabs, oysters and mussels. Feral cats and rabbits have been observed and exotic weeds are also a problem. The management plan includes removing weeds and introduced animals.

YALATA IPA was declared in October 1999. The 456,300 ha property at the head of the Great Australian Bight in South Australia is managed by Yalata Community Inc. Many native birds, mammals and reptiles inhabit this important ecological zone on the edge of the Nullabor Plain. Yalata is also the premier cliff based location for watching whales migrate to mate and calve in the waters of the Bight. The region is of great cultural importance, with dreaming tracks which cross continental Australia converging in this region. Yalata is adjacent to the Nullabor National Park and Conservation Reserve, the Yellabinna Conservation Reserve and the Great Australian Bight Marine Park. Together with Yalata as an IPA, these protected areas form one of the world's largest contiguous areas of land and sea managed for biodiversity conservation.

WATARRU and WALALKARA IPA s were declared in June 2000. Both areas lie in the Great Victorian Desert, the traditional lands of the Pitjantjatjara, Ngaanyatjarra and Yankunytjatjara Aboriginal peoples (locally known as Anangu) who have maintained a connection with the land for thousands of years. Watarru IPA covers 1.28 million ha, including part of the magnificent Birksgate Ranges. Walalkara IPA covers 700,000 ha. Both Watarru and Walalkara are biologically significant areas. They contain one of the highest diversities of reptile species found anywhere in the world and support populations of rare and endangered species, including mallee fowl and the great desert skink.

MOUNT CHAPPELL and BADGER Islands were declared as IPA s in September 2000. The islands, covering 325 and 1,244ha respectively, are located within the Furneaux Island group north of Tasmania in Bass Strait. The natural environment of these islands has been altered extensively through European use of the natural resources including mutton birds, seals and pastures for grazing livestock. To their advantage, the islands are relatively remote from high populations and retain spectacular scenery and high cultural and historical value for the Tasmanian Aboriginal community.

GUANABA was declared as an IPA in November 2000. Guanaba covers 100ha adjacent to the Mt Tamborine National Park in south-eastern Queensland. Guanaba contains significant examples of wet and dry rainforest which, because of its isolation, has been relatively untouched by modern land use. The Ngarang Wal Land Council plans to maintain the biodiversity values of the property, taking steps to inhibit weed or feral animal incursions, and to use the IPA in partnership with Queensland University as a base for research activities.

Turtle Monitoring

Dhimurru rangers Djawa Yunupingu and Mandaka Marika release a flatback turtle from a fishing net.

DHIMURRU IPA was declared over 100,000 ha of Aboriginal land in north-eastern Arnhem Land in the Northern Territory in December 2000. The Dhimurru Land Management Aboriginal Corporation manages the area on behalf of the Yolngu traditional owners. Dhimurru IPA has outstanding natural heritage values with high plant and animal diversity and species not found elsewhere in NT protected areas. The IPA includes land and sea country extending into some registered sacred sites. Significant feeding and nesting habitat for sea birds and several threatened species of marine turtles are present in the IPA. The major land management issues involve managing visitor pressure on a number of "recreation areas"', rehabilitating damage from past uncontrolled access, and wildlife protection and research including monitoring the impact of marine debris on threatened turtle populations.

WARUL KAWA (Deliverance Island) was declared an IPA in February 2001. The name Warul Kawa means "Island of turtles" in the language of the Torres Strait Island people for whom it has considerable spiritual and cultural significance. Located 16 nautical miles off the coast of Papua New Guinea, Warul Kawa is an important nesting site for three species of sea turtle, being the most northerly located significant rookery for one of those species, the flatback turtle, which is found only in Australian waters. Warul Kawa is one of the few islands in Torres Strait that has maintained its natural vegetation, providing important habitat and a major food source for fruit eating birds, the orange-footed scrubfowl and a large number of seabirds.

For more information about Indigenous Protected Areas, contact the Department of the Environment, Water, Heritage and the Arts' Community Information Unit on 1800 803 772 or visit the website at:

March 2001

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