Paruku Indigenous Protected Area
Great Sandy Desert and Tanami | Declared in September 2001
Paruku Indigenous Protected Area was declared in September 2001. It covers around 430,000 hectares on the borders of the Great Sandy Desert and Tanami bioregions, south of the township of Halls Creek.
Paruku's spectacular wetlands are an internationally renowned haven for hundreds of thousands of birds. The IPA covers a collection of aquatic habitats known as Lake Gregory, including Mulan Lake (the largest waterbody), Lera Waterhole, and Salt Pan and Djaluwon Creeks.
Paruku is the Walmajarri name for Lake Gregory. Paruku/Lake Gregory is the only lake in the region with a reliable source of fresh water for large numbers of birds and other animals, supporting over 70 species of waterbirds and 175 aquatic species. Surrounded by hundreds of kilometres of arid desert lands, these wetland oases are fed from a catchment in the south-east Kimberley region. More than 100,000 birds visit the wetlands regularly, with up to 60,000 estimated at Mulan Lake at any one time.
Photos: (Left) Paruku's red sand plains.
(Right) Paruku homestead. (Bottom) Paruku
Paruku IPA encompasses a variety of desert and semi-desert landscapes—undulating red sand plains, salt pans and occasional dunes with stunted eucalyptus. It is dotted with acacias and spinifex, flood plains with swathes of short grasses and low shrubs, and alluvial plains and sand rises.
The land covered by the IPA is held under two pastoral leases purchased by the Aboriginal Lands Trust in 1978. Paruku/Lake Gregory and Billiluna properties are managed by the Mulan community with the assistance of the Kimberley Land Council. IPA status helps Traditional Owners protect their places of cultural significance, to develop an ecologically sustainable pastoral enterprise and conserve the Paruku wetlands.
The IPA has several groups of Traditional Owners, including Walmajarri, Jaru and Kukatja peoples. Paruku is at the end of a long Dreaming track binding together a large number of people living across a wide area. The way the land and waters are managed, including the placement of fences, bores and living camps, is governed by Tjurapalan Tingarri Law. The law also binds the Traditional Owners together and expresses their communal ownership of native title.
IPA activities help to manage the land in accordance with traditional ways, and support cooperative community works. Environmental degradation caused by introduced species, along with former overgrazing by cattle, is being addressed with the assistance of IPA funding.
Traditional plant use has been recorded through ethno-botany field trips, and visitor activities managed through the preparation of a tourism management plan, and construction and maintenance of lakeside campsites. Controlled burning practices, and fencing to monitor the impacts of feral horses and cattle, are helping to care for country and maintain the land's health into the future.
Paruku IPA in managed in line with the following International Union for Conservation of Nature category:
- Category II - Protected Area managed mainly for ecosystem conservation and recreation and Category VI - Managed Resource Protected Area: Protected Area managed mainly for the sustainable use of natural ecosystems.