Indigenous Communities

and the Environment

Gumma Indigenous Protected Area

Gumma Indigenous Protected Area

Nambucca Heads, New South Wales | Declared in November 2011

We still use this area and maintain our connection to this sacred and culturally significant place. For our people Mimi Wagar (Mother Earth) is central to our beliefs. She is a living entity, caring for all life and organising the balance between ecosystems. Gaagal (the sea) is our totem. Baga Baga traditional owner Conway Marshall

Gumma Indigenous Protected Area

Photos (top and middle): courtesy of Chels Marshall, Gumma Indigenous Protected Area and Parks Australia.

Bottom: Australian biscuit star (Pentagonaster duebeni) by Steve Smith.

From Nambucca River to islets on the edge of the Pacific Ocean, Gumma Indigenous Protected Area is an idyllic coastal haven.

Just south of Nambucca Heads on the north coast of New South Wales, Gumma complements the estuarine system for the adjacent Gaagal Wanggaan (South Beach) National Park on the eastern seaboard. To the west the Nambucca River separates Gumma from the mainland, creating a small peninsula. Three islets float at the mouth of the Nambucca River, creating a link between this protected area and the Pacific Ocean.

Gumma is a calm aesthetic backdrop to the sprawl of urbanisation of Nambucca Heads.

The saltmarshes and mangroves provide a transition from the aquatic to the terrestrial habitats. Dense, old growth eucalypt blackbutt forest dominates the centre of Gumma, providing shelter for many mammals including the squirrel glider, and yellow bellied glider and micro bats. The dense undergrowth is home to species such as the long-nosed potoroo and green and gold bell frog.

The sandflats provides habitat for many birds protected under the Japan-Australia Migratory Bird Agreement and the China- Australia Migratory Bird Agreement. One of these birds is the little tern, a small and slight migratory bird that annually migrates from eastern Asia to breed. The little tern inhabits the low sand dunes and beach environment, tending to raise its young close to the high tide mark.

The Baga Baga and Ngambaa clan of the Gumbaynggirr have been the traditional owners of the Gumma environs ever since the creation of its coastal environment 6,000 years ago. We know this because both Gumbaynggirr creation stories and scientific evidence show that the estuarine and marine ecosystems have developed during the time of the traditional owners occupation of the area.

For the Baga Baga people, Mimi Wagar (Mother Earth) is central to cultural beliefs. She is a living entity, caring for all life and organising the balance between ecosystems. Gaagal (the sea) is the totem for Gumbaynggirr people. The dichotomy between the healing and harming properties of Gaagal help Mimi Wagar create stability between the two ecosystems. The functions of these ecosystems are in perpetual cycle, making one no more important than the other.

Sustainable management of the landscape and its species is also embedded in Gumbaynggirr culture. The area is still used and seasonally occupied by traditional families. This continuing connection emphasises the sacred and culturally significant history of the area. Cultural knowledge about the connection to water and Gumbaynggirr responsibility of protecting the landscape is passed down from generation to generation.

The Nambucca Heads Local Aboriginal Land Council manages Gumma on behalf of its traditional owners. The land council is currently working with the New South Wales National Parks and Wildlife Service to put in place co-operative management strategies, including oceanic and esturine litter management, weed and feral animal control. The protected area is also providing a place of marine and estuarine cultural and environmental learning, developing partnerships with the National Marine Science Centre and Southern Cross University.

Tourists are welcome to visit sites on the Indigenous Protected Area. On the side of the Nambucca River, low key camp grounds have been created. The traditional owners are also developing a four- star camping experience for visitors on Warrell Creek.

The declaration of the Gumma Indigenous Protected Area on 25 November 2011 was made under the International Union for Conservation of Nature Category V – Category V – Protected Landscape/ Seascape: Protected Area managed mainly for landscape/ seascape conservation and recreation.

The Indigenous Protected Area is part of Australia's National Reserve System - a nation-wide network of reserves especially set up to protect examples of Australia's unique landscapes, plants and animals for current and future generations.

Download the Gumma fact sheet (PDF - 2.49 MB)