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Media Release
Minister for the Environment and Heritage
Dr David Kemp

3 July 2003

World Heritage listing for Purnululu


The spectacular Purnululu National Park, in Western Australia's isolated East Kimberley region, has been declared a World Heritage listed area by the World Heritage Committee, which met in Paris overnight.

"This superlative natural phenomenon joins 14 other internationally outstanding Australian places that have qualified for this rare honour, which includes the Uluru Kata Tjuta and Kakadu national parks," Minister for the Environment and Heritage, Dr David Kemp, said today.

Purnululu – famous for its fascinating banded beehive structures, sandstone cliffs and towers of the Bungle Bungle Range, and its rich Aboriginal cultural heritage – has been World Heritage-listed for its unrivalled natural values.

"Its domes, gorges and wet season waterfalls were virtually unknown except to pastoralists, scientists and the local Aboriginal community until 1982, when aerial pictures were first released and widely circulated. It is now seen as one of the scenic jewels of outback Australia," Dr Kemp said.

Dr Kemp said World Heritage listing is so prestigious in Australia and overseas that it attracts widespread interest from tourists and provides a financial boost to the region.

"The World Heritage listing process is detailed, demanding and exhaustive. It ensures that only the very best examples of the world's heritage make it onto the world's premier heritage list," he said.

"Since Australia submitted a comprehensive nomination document to the World Heritage Centre early last year, assessors from two international heritage bodies – the International Committee on Monuments and Sites (ICOMOS) and the International Union for Nature Conservation (IUCN) – have visited Purnululu to carry out a comprehensive assessment of its World Heritage credentials.

"Purnululu has also been nominated for its rich Aboriginal cultural heritage spanning over some 20,000 years. The Park provides exceptional testimony to this hunter-gatherer cultural tradition which has survived to present day despite the impact of colonisation. Australia will continue to pursue the cultural element of the nomination.

"Officers from my department, Environment Australia, provided support to the assessors and in preparing ancillary information to meet their requirements."

The World Heritage Committee – which comprises 21 countries who are States Parties to the World Heritage Convention – considered the nomination and reports at its meeting in Paris and agreed to inscribe Purnululu National Park on the World Heritage List.

Under the categories of natural heritage set out in Article 2 of the World Heritage Convention, Purnululu National Park is a site representing 'natural features consisting of physical and biological formations, or groups of such formations, that are of outstanding universal value from the aesthetic or scientific point of view'; and 'natural sites, or precisely delineated natural areas, of outstanding universal value from the point of view of science, conservation or natural beauty'.

According to the natural criteria, Purnululu is 'an outstanding example representing major stages of earth's history, including the record of life, significant on-going geological processes in the development of landforms, or significant geomorphic or physiographic features' and 'contains superlative natural phenomena or areas of exceptional natural beauty and aesthetic importance.'

The Western Australian Government also strongly supports the World Heritage listing which joins Shark Bay as Western Australia's second World Heritage property.

A fact sheet on Purnululu, the nomination document, video footage and photographs are available at http://www.ea.gov.au/heritage/awh. To access the World Heritage list, go to http://www.unesco.org/whc/nwhc/pages/doc/main.htm.

Commonwealth of Australia