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The Hon Greg Hunt MP
Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister for the Environment and Heritage
Federal Member for Flinders
22 September 2006
A new agreement with Indigenous communities in north-east Arnhem Land will deliver positive benefits for the environment, employment and social cohesion.
The Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister for the Environment and Heritage, Greg Hunt, today launched Layhnapuy Indigenous Protected Area (IPA): Australia's 21st Indigenous Protected Area.
The agreement covers an area of 450,000 hectares (4,500 square kilometres) bordering the Gulf of Carpentaria and owned by the Yolgnu people of the Laynhapuy homeland communities.
Mr Hunt also announced $205,000 in Australian Government funding for the 18 Yirralka Indigenous rangers to expand their conservation work - including control of buffalo, surveillance for illegal fishing and cleaning up dangerous marine debris.
"The IPA will lead to new jobs for Yolgnu people, helping them manage their land according to international conservation guidelines," Mr Hunt said.
"Under their management plan, the Yirralka rangers will control feral water buffalo and pigs to reduce the threat to one of Australia's biological jewels: the stunning wetlands around the big rivers flowing into Blue Mud Bay.
"They will clear the dangerous ghost nets which foul the coastline and improve the protection of important turtle nesting habitat. They will work on control of crazy ants and weeds and will set up projects to monitor and protect important cultural heritage sites.
"This is important work which benefits all Australians. This country includes some of the most remote and intact natural systems in Australia, and the IPA brings the area of land managed for conservation in the coast bioregion from 3 per cent to 12 per cent.
"It also provides a pathway for these remote communities to meaningful jobs with spin-offs in health, education and social cohesion."
Mr Hunt pointed to important social benefits in the 20 other communities managing Indigenous Protected Areas. Seventy four per cent of communities report their IPA work helps to reduce substance abuse, 85 per cent link their IPA activities to early school engagement and three-quarters have reported improvement in family and community cohesion.
"I hope that we can help Laynhapuy develop a junior ranger program in the future, along the lines of the ones we are trialling at Kakadu and Jervis Bay in NSW, starting at primary school level. These junior ranger programs need to be continued through secondary school trainee ranger courses leading to adult careers as Indigenous rangers.
"I believe Indigenous Protected Areas, coupled with a concerted Indigenous Ranger program from primary school on, should form the basis of a national model to provide career opportunities in land management for Indigenous people."
Laynhapuy Chairman Mr Barayuwa Mununngurr said the declaration of the Indigenous Protected Area was a step forward in the sustainable management of their country.
"Our country continues to nurture us as it did our ancestors and as we wish for our children," Mr Mununngurr said.
"The IPA offers us a great opportunity for Yolgnu young people to be employed in managing our country using the knowledge of both cultures.
"We need to build on our current work and grow our ranger force, our funds and equipment and our skills and capacity.
"We Yolgnu welcome visitors and in our plan we look at ways to manage tourists so that they can admire the country and wildlife and go boating and fishing whilst respecting our privacy and our cultural sites.
"Some of our communities are interested in tourism. Some are investigating other small scale economic activities that could support people and help them to be independent. We're looking at art and craft, harvesting bush tucker for sale, harvesting pest animals like buffalo and possibly producing mud bricks for housing.
"We look forward to building on this good start and developing partnerships with governments, private enterprise, research institutions and conservation organisations for the sustainable use of our country."
The Laynhapuy Indigenous Protected Area now becomes part of Australia's National Reserve System, a network of important parcels of land where examples of our biodiversity are protected for future generations. The IPA will eventually comprise 6,900 square kilometres with 630 kilometres of coastline.
Since 1996, Indigenous landholders have declared approximately 14 million hectares - almost 6 per cent of Australia's land mass - as Indigenous Protected Areas.
The Australian Government has provided more than $14.8 million in funding to IPAs since 1996, with an additional $3.1 million to be allocated in 2006-07.
For further information on Indigenous Protected Areas, visit www.deh.gov.au/indigenous/ipa.
John Deller (Mr Hunt's office) 0400 496 596
Ric Norton (Laynhapuy Homelands Association) 08 8939 1809