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Media Release
The Hon Dr Sharman Stone
Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister for the Environment and Heritage
Federal Member for Murray

10 October 2002

Australia's Largest Protected Area Declared in WA

An area larger than the state of Tasmania in Western Australia’s Western Desert region is to be declared as Australia’s largest mainland protected area.

Parliamentary Secretary for the Environment and Heritage, Dr Sharman Stone, congratulated the Yarnangu people on their decision to declare this land as an Indigenous Protected Area to be managed for the protection and conservation of its natural and cultural values.

“Today’s announcement represents the culmination of five years consultation and planning by the Ngaanyatjarra Land Management Unit, supported by the Howard Government.

“Over that time the Ngaanyatjarra Council has received $230,000 funding from the Natural Heritage Trust to assist in the establishment of an Indigenous Protected Area on their land,” Dr Stone said at a ceremony at Warburton to mark the declaration.

“The Ngaanyatjarra Lands Indigenous Protected Area comprises over 98,000 square kilometres and incorporates sections of the Gibson Desert, Great Sandy Desert, Great Victoria Desert Bioregions and all of the Central Ranges Bioregion that occurs in Western Australia.

“The Ngaanyatjarra Lands are unique. Their remote location precludes many of the land use activities that have been introduced in other parts of Australia, particularly pastoralism, and the traditional owners have maintained continuous management of the area, comprise the majority resident population and manage the regional infrastructure such as roads, health services, stores and air services.

“Traditional knowledge of the area is strong and actively implemented and the declaration of this Indigenous Protected Area will also help the Yarnangu to manage new impacts outside the scope of traditional knowledge such as weeds and feral animal control and to take advantage of sustainable nature tourism opportunities.”

Over the five years of the Natural Heritage Trust the Ngaanyatjarra lands have received funding for a range of projects including $40,000 for a project to assist Aboriginal women develop a native bush foods enterprise. The native foods, including bush tomatoes and acacia seeds, are now being sold on to native bushfood retailers.

“The continuity of traditional land management practices and absence of European impacts over such a large area has afforded local flora and fauna a high level of protection. Almost 650 plant species from the Central Ranges are lodged at the Western Australian herbarium and 11 frog, 103 reptile, 150 bird and up to 47 mammal species are known throughout the region.

“The Ngaanyatjarra Lands Indigenous Protected Area is also home to at least five threatened species, including the Mulgara, Greater Bilby and Black-footed Rock-wallaby.

“Fox baiting work by Warburton community members, in conjunction with the WA Department of Conservation and Land Management, has already resulted in an increase in rock wallaby numbers and through their work with the traditional owners, scientists have been able to refine the conservation status of other species such as the Great Desert Skink.”

The Indigenous Protected Areas program is part of the National Reserve System Program, which is working to establish a network of protected areas that includes a representative sample of all types of ecosystems across the country. The program supports Indigenous landowners to manage their lands for the protection of natural and cultural features for the benefit of all Australians according to internationally recognised standards and guidelines.

“Through this declaration the traditional owners will work with Environment Australia to protect and conserve this unique area for the future benefit of all Australians,” Dr Stone said.

For more information on the Ngaanyatjarra Lands Indigenous Protected Area, see the Environment Australia web site at:

Simon Frost 0419 495 468

Related Resources

Declaration of the Ngaanyatjarra Lands Indigenous Protected Area - Dr Sharman Stone audio grabs

Sharman Stone's audio grabs are available as mp3 files. You will need mp3 player software and a sound card installed on your computer to play the messages.

Audio grabs:

"Sharman tell us what you are out here today in Warburton doing"

"Well this is a fantastic celebration because the Yarnangu people have got over 98,000 km2, that really is about the size of Tasmania, and now this is going to become an Indigenous Protected Area - that is what we are launching today. That means that they'll have about $330,000 plus to spend on, well over the last 5 years a range of projects, and in particular what they want to do is to make sure that this great desert area, that includes the Gibson, the Great Sandy Desert, Great Victoria Desert bioregions the Central Ranges too. We are going to keep the biodiversity that was there before through aboriginal people actively knocking back the feral animals, like the foxes, doing a lot of the work to protect the indigenous species like the frogs the reptiles and at the end of the day we should see the Yarnangu people able to keep this country as they want to for generations to come."

"This is under the Indigenous Protected Area program can you tell us a little bit about that."

"Well, the IPAs or the Indigenous Protected Areas, this is the 15th that's been proclaimed across Australia, and the idea is that any indigenous owned or managed country that has really great environmental values, the communities living on that country can apply to the Commonwealth, and the country will be assessed either all or part of their property - whatever they wish to put forward - and if its got environmental values that we believe really mean that country could be added to the National Reserve System, then the funding is put up for the area to become and IPA - that means a business plan or an environmental management plan is drawn up, then also some funds are put in to help supplement salaries for individuals in that community to work to keep the country, to do the fencing that might need to be done, to protect some water holes or some of the vegetation. Certainly doing work like the fox baiting this community has done at Warburton with the West Australia Department of Conservation and Land Management. It could be a case of, in here again, on this country at Ngaanyatjarra, the women have been working to develop bush food enterprises so they are now selling things like bush tomatoes and acacia seeds to native food, bush food retailers, and that took obviously some work to develop up that little business. So it means at the end of the day a community has got some funding support to bring their country back if its had pressures from say pasturalism or invasive weeds or feral animals. And the country is brought back so they can sustain it and they must manage it to international standards, that is part of the agreement and in return the country is put on the National Reserve System and the community itself has some support and advice on how to keep the country."

"And just finally can you tell us a little bit about where this particular Indigenous Protected Area is:"

"Well it's a huge area as I said before its an area larger than the state of Tasmania its in Western Australia's western desert region right on that border that little corner there where you've got Northern Territory, Western Australia and South Australia coming together and one of the last communities I visited was Watheroo just across the border there with a great community doing a fantastic job looking after their country and protecting their bush foods tackling some of their feral animal problems too. So this is across the border and it includes 98,000 km2 and as I mentioned Gibson Desert, the Great Sandy Desert the Great Victoria Desert bioregions and all the Central Ranges bioregion that occur in Western Australia. So its and enormous part of the country and its called, I hope I pronounce it properly, Ngaanyatjarra is the name of this huge region and I just want to congratulate everybody the Yarnangu who have been working some 5 years for today. It's a great time to celebrate then, because the job ahead is enormous but there is no one who could tackle it with more commitment and zeal than the traditional owners of this country and at the end of the day they will be looking at developing nature tourism so it shall be generations of Australians from cities from other parts who can come and help enjoy this great country as well."

"Today we are out here in this fantastic country over 98,000 square kilometers we're putting into an indigenous protected area at the request of the Yarnangu people. Great celebration, the 15th IPA for Australia and it means that we will be able to protect this country for all time with a little bit of help from the Commonwealth Government."

Part of the Central Ranges in the Ngaanyatjarra Lands Indigenous Protected Area

Part of the Central Ranges in the Ngaanyatjarra Lands Indigenous Protected Area

Indigenous Protected Area project officer Ian Ward explaining to scientists how to cook Bardi (witchetty grubs)

Indigenous Protected Area project officer Ian Ward explaining to scientists how to cook Bardi (witchetty grubs)

Central Ranges indigenous protected area 1999

Map of the proposed protected area from the Central Ranges feasibility study 1999

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