Indigenous Communities

and the Environment

Yanyuwa IPA, Northern Territory | Yanyuwa IPA

Yanyuwa Indigenous Protected Area

Gulf of Carpentaria, Northern Territory | Declared in July 2011

''Yanyuwa Law is important, it is powerful, don't break it, don't be ignorant of it, it is from the past, from the old people, our mother's, mother's brothers, our father's fathers, our father's mothers and our mother's brothers, they carried this Law, this Law is in the country and the sea for all time. Listen to it! Remember it! It is for all time. Do not leave it behind as some kind of rubbish."

These strong words come from li-Wirdiwalangu, our senior people

Top: Aerial view of Yanyuwa

Top: Aerial view of Yanyuwa

Middle: Turtle surveys

Bottom: Sea rangers at work

Images courtesy of Yanyuwa IPA.

Located in the heart of the Gulf of Carpentaria, Yanyuwa Indigenous Protected Area includes more than 130,000 hectares of ancient land running alongside the magnificent McArthur River at Borroloola and five stunning Sir Edward Pellew archipelago islands.

Yanyuwa Indigenous Protected Area is named after its traditional owners. Yanyuwa want to see their people living, travelling, hunting and working on country, strengthening culture and clan relationships. They also want to teach visitors to respect their culture and country.

Yanyuwa manage their country according to their law, created by ancestral beings as they travelled across the land and sea. These ancestral beings still remind Yanyuwa today of their long history through physical songlines in the landscape, known as kujika. These extend across Yanyuwa country holding land and sea together as one and help make the country strong and fresh.

Scientists recognise the islands of Yanyuwa country, known as the Sir Edward Pellew archipelago islands, as having world conservation significance with many nesting sites for marine turtles and seabirds. Sea turtles and dugong are also culturally significant to Yanyuwa, with the rangers working actively to protect sea grass beds and the marine creatures that graze on them.

The islands are an important refuge for native mammals threatened on the mainland. They contain a wide range of habitats including vine thickets, open forests and woodlands, sandstone heaths, mudflats, mangroves and sand dunes. The rangers are actively managing threats to native wildlife on the islands through a feral cat eradication project and the management of feral pigs.

On the mainland, Yanyuwa Indigenous Protected Area straddles the McArthur River. At flood time the river, lagoons and waterholes are home to a variety of fish like barramundi, black bream and long-neck turtles. The area along the McArthur River is home to many bush medicine and food plants including berry tree, bush plum and bush potato that Yanyuwa continue to use today. The rangers are continuing to look after this area through weed and feral animal management, and undertaking surveys to monitor kangaroo, bandicoot and rock wallaby populations.

The hard work and dedication of Yanyuwa senior people and the li-Anthawirriyarra sea rangers is inspiring further support from the Australian Government and neighbouring landholders.

Today the Australian Government supports Yanyuwa Indigenous Protected Area by providing funding for 14 rangers through its Working on Country program. There are both male and female li-Anthawirriyarra rangers, and they work together to make sure the Indigenous Protected Area is managed in a culturally appropriate manner.

The Yanyuwa were the first group to make a land claim under the Northern Territory Aboriginal Land Rights Act 1976. Today the Mabunji Aboriginal Resource Association assists Yanyuwa families and li-Anthawirriyarra sea rangers to manage the Yanyuwa Indigenous Protected Area, declared on 1 July 2011.

Like all Indigenous Protected Areas, Yanyuwa is part of the National Reserve System - our nation's most secure way of protecting native habitat for future generations. The IPA is managed under the International Union for Conservation of Nature's (IUCN) Categories V and VI, as a protected area managed mainly to protect its landscape and seascape and for the sustainable use of natural resources.

Download the Yanyuwa fact sheet (PDF - 909 KB)