Indigenous Communities

and the Environment


The photos used are courtesy of Kimberley land council.

Photo courtesy of Kimberley land council.

Kimberley Western Australia | Declared in June 2013

The tiny purple-crowned fairy-wren beats its wings and soars above deep sandstone gorges and sandy waterways lined with melaleuca paperbark. The seven metre long freshwater sawfish swims through estuarine tidal mudflats littered with mangroves hunting for prey. A hot sun shines across a low wooded savanna, where a goldenbacked tree-rat enjoys a meal of fruits, flowers and termites. These are just some of the endangered and vulnerable animals which live in the Wilinggin Indigenous Protected Area.

Wilinggin Indigenous Protected Area is located in the central-north Kimberley and spreads over 2,417,416 hectares. The traditional owners, the Ngarinyin people have lived in the area for thousands of years, passing down their law and culture from generation to generation. Ngarinyin country extends from the Napier and King Leopold Ranges in the west across to the Durack, Saw and Cockburn Ranges in the east. The Drysdale National Park and Mitchell Plateau, and the Kija Tablelands form the northern and southern borders.

Wilinggin is made up of a wide variety of landscapes from basalt ranges and sandstone cliffs, which rise up to 250 metres high, through to wooded grasslands and pockets of rainforests, all of which are crisscrossed by rivers, creeks and billabongs.

Ngabun (freshwater places) and lalanggarra (saltwater places) are very significant to the Ngarinyin. Their connection to land is based on the Law of the Wanjina (creator ancestors) and the Wunggurr (rainbow serpent) who live in permanent waterholes and form the shape and landscape features of Wilinggin. Ngabun are a source of bush foods such as unngguwiya (water lily), emana (black bream) and goya (freshwater crocodile). Orrawa jirri (river pandanus) grows close to waterways and provides a home for the endangered gouldian finch.

The Wilinggin Rangers look after the health of the waterways, particularly wulumara (long-necked turtle) and dijigudi (shortnecked turtle). They monitor water quality, feral plants and animals and help to educate children on the value of waterways.

Fire has always been important for Ngarinyin and has played an important role in shaping the Wilinggin landscape. Right-way burning is directed by traditional owners, and means the right people burning at the right time and place.

After fire spreads across Daardu Mindi (burnt area) new Jolulu Mindi (green shoots) grow and provide food for kangaroos and other animals. Daardu Mindi helps bush fruits such as gulangi and guloy (black and green plums) flower and mangarnda (bush potato) grow and spread. Wilinggin traditional owners and rangers have been helping the Ngarinyin community build their fire management skills, and through partnerships, prepare for participation in the carbon abatement market. The Ngarinyin's plans for the future include developing a cultural site register and implementing a cultural awareness program for visitors to Wilinggin.

Dedicated in June 2013 Wilinggin Indigenous Protected Area will become part of the National Reserve System, ensuring future generations can enjoy this spectacular landscape.

Wilinggin Indigenous Protected Areas will be managed under the International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN) Category V, protecting the values associated with the interaction between people and nature, and Category VI which focuses on sustainable natural resource management and conservation.

Download this page as the Wilinggin fact sheet (PDF - 688 KB)