Warlu Jilajaa Jumu Indigenous Protected Area
Western Australia | Declared in November 2007
Being sustainable on country means making decisions locally that do not harm country, now or in the future. It means providing future generations with the rights and the abilities to enjoy their responsibilities to country.
Ngurrara Traditional Owners
Warlu Jilajaa Jumu Indigenous Protected Area (IPA), declared in November 2007, covers 1.6 million hectares of arid scrub and desert wetlands in the north-west of Western Australia's Great Sandy Desert.
The IPA is cared for by its Traditional Owners, the Ngurrara people. It is named after the fire they use to keep the land healthy (warlu), and the permanent waterholes (jila or 'living water') and seasonal soaks (jumu) that are the IPA's key sources of water.
Over thousands of years the wind has lifted the red desert sand into long, undulating rows of sharp-crested dunes. The land is dotted with rocky outcrops, spinifex grass and native shrubs, with occasional groves of eucalypts, grevilleas and hakeas. A rich diversity of wildlife roams the IPA, including the vulnerable mulgara and bilby, and the endangered night parrot.
The IPA was handed back to its Traditional Owners in November 2007 as part of their successful Ngurrara Native Title claim. Their connection to country is extremely strong - the Ngurrara people lived off the land until the 1960s, and some of the older generation still remember their first contact with white people.
Nowadays the Ngurrara people live in nearby communities such as Fitzroy Crossing and Halls Creek, and take field trips out to their country. The IPA rangers are working to set up a permanent ranger base at Warlu Jilajaa Jumu, to get more people out on country to share traditional knowledge and tackle weeds and feral animals.
The IPA gets little rain and the wet season is short and erratic. For most of the year there is no surface water to drink so the people use permanent waterholes called jila, which must be dug out like wells to yield water. Each jila has high cultural values, and many have been central to rain dances and other ceremonies for thousands of years. When rain does fall ephemeral lakes and waterholes appear, although the high salt content in the underlying clay pan can sometimes make the water too salty to drink.
The IPA creates ranger jobs and training opportunities for young people, and helps the Ngurrara people look after their land and its cultural sites. Rangers monitor native species, and use traditional burning to keep weeds such as buffel grass down and help fire-dependant plants to thrive. The Canning Stock Route travels through the IPA, and rangers work hard to maintain camp grounds and protect important cultural sites.
There are four major language groups within the Ngurrara people - Walmajarri, Wangkatjungka, Juwaliny, and Mangala. The name of the IPA, Warlu Jilajaa Jumu, comes from the Walmajarri language. There are also many family groups within the Ngurrara people, and each family group is responsible for a particular part of the IPA. An IPA committee makes general decisions on the land, and major decisions are made by a wider meeting of Ngurrara people. The Kimberley Land Council and Kimberley Aboriginal Law and Culture Centre provide advice and expertise.
Warlu Jilajaa Jumu IPA is managed in line with World Conservation Union (IUCN) Category V - Protected Landscape/Seascape: Protected Area managed mainly for landscape conservation and recreation.