State: SA | Hectares: 58,000 | IUCN Category: VI | Partners: Nepabunna Aboriginal Community Inc.
The journey undertaken by the Adnyamathanha people to develop and manage Nantawarrina - Australia's first Indigenous Protected Area - has rehabilitated their land and revitalised their community.
Nantawarrina spreads across 58,000 hectares of rugged terrain between the Flinders and Gammon Ranges National Parks. A key attraction for visitors and campers as they pass through the ranges, this hardy country is characterised by stunning limestone hills and siltstone flats.
As well as protecting animals such as the yellow footed rock wallaby, the Indigenous Protected Area is of great cultural significance to the Nepabunna people as a traditional tribal territory and a place containing culturally important sites. The Indigenous Protected Area has ensured the country is a source of employment for the present community and for future generations.
Nantawarrina's managers say it is a happier place since its declaration as an Indigenous Protected Area in 1998. Back then the small, close knit community was struggling to keep its young people from moving away. There were few jobs in the area, young people didn't have much to look forward to, and relationships between elders and the younger generations were suffering.
The Indigenous Protected Area has brought a sense of purpose and cultural reconnection these days, because looking after the land is everybody's business.
Elders spend time on the land teaching cultural values and bush skills and women play an important role through seed collection and weeding. By giving young people land management work to do, such as fencing off waterholes and protecting cultural sites, many social and behavioural problems are addressed.
"We take them out to the waterholes and tell them the dreaming stories - how arkuru the rainbow serpent came into the gorge and formed the mountains and rock holes," Nantawarrina manager Ian Johnson says.
"The old people take the young ones out to the burial grounds or sit around the campfire and tell the stories.
"We've got strong leadership here. If there's any trouble with the young ones, we take them out on country. Everyone has something to do."
News of the Indigenous Protected Area's success has reached far beyond its borders. In 2000 Nantawarrina received an award from the United Nations Environment Program, joining the Global 500 Roll of Honour for Environmental Achievement.
Prior to its declaration as an Indigenous Protected Area, the land was extensively used for pastoral purposes, resulting in widespread negative impacts on natural vegetation. The conservation and heritage interests of the Nepabunna community are being addressed through the Indigenous Protected Area, and the community aspires to reverse any damage the land has experienced.
"White man brought cats, goats, rabbits and donkeys" Ian Johnson says. "Now our job is to get rid of them.
"It's a big tidy up after sheep and cattle have been on the land, but you can see the clean springs and the new trees. It's a big difference we've made."
The Nepabunna people are very proud of their achievements in land rehabilitation and believe their willingness to experiment with different seed germination and growing techniques will result in a superior land for future generations.