Indigenous Protected Areas

An Indigenous Protected Area (IPA) is an area of Indigenous-owned land or sea where traditional Aboriginal owners have entered into an agreement with the Australian Government to promote biodiversity and cultural resource conservation.

In return the Government agrees to give some support to the traditional owners to carry out the land management work required to conserve its ecological and cultural value. As there is substantial overlap between traditional aboriginal land use and contemporary conservation

The CLC has one declared Indigenous Protected Area on Aboriginal land in its region and two other areas are currently undergoing feasibility studies with a view to having them declared as IPAs in the future.

The Indigenous Protected Areas component of the Australian government’s Caring for our Country initiative supports Indigenous communities to manage their land as IPAs, and these areas then contribute to the National Reserve System.

The Northern Tanami IPA

lajamanu ipa

In April 2007, around 40,000 square kilometres of the Northern Tanami in the Northern Territory was declared an IPA. Relatively free of the impacts of western land uses, the vast Tanami land trusts are sanctuaries for desert flora and fauna now poorly represented in other parts of Central Australia. As such, they are of increasing national conservation significance.

Much of the Tanami is the traditional country of the Warlpiri people and ninety per cent of the Tanami region is held as Aboriginal freehold title under the Aboriginal Land Rights (Northern Territory) Act 1976. The dramatic landscapes of sandplains and dunes and the flourishing ephemeral wetlands of this region are a haven to a number of threatened species including the bilby, great desert skink, mulgara and the marsupial mole.

The Northern Tanami IPA contributes significantly to Australia’s National Reserve System and the declaration of the area is a significant economic and social boost to the community of Lajamanu which hosts an active CLC ranger group – the Wulaign Rangers. The Wulaign Rangers work closely with traditional owners and IPA staff to undertake important fire management, threatened species conservation work, weed management, and wetland management work, under guidance of traditional owners who make up the IPA Management Committee.

Key activities for the Northern Tanami IPA  are the development of a feral animal management strategy, completion of priority ground and aerial burning works – including collaborative boundary firebreak establishment with Suplejack Station, management of Parkinsonia (a Weed of National Significance) in key catchment areas, bilby population monitoring, and maintaining a program of annual school country visits involving the Lajamanu School and large numbers of senior community members where there is an emphasis on both cultural and environmental learning.


Southern Tanami IPA

The Southern Tanami IPA was officially declared on July 10 2012

The southern Tanami became the largest conservation zone on the Australian mainland when more than 10 million hectares of the southern Tanami Desert was declared an IPA in July 2012.

The Southern Tanami IPA – 101,000 square kilometres - covers the the southern portion of the Tanami and its  traditional owners live at  Yuendumu, Nyirripi and Willowra. The Southern Tanami IPA contains vast spinifex sandplains, broad paleodrainage channels and low rocky ranges. 

The wetlands in this area take in the Lander River system and its associated swamps and waterholes, botanically important paleodrainage (ancient river) systems and many small soakages and rockholes. It includes Yinapaka (Lake Surprise), a culturally significant site which is included on the Directory of Important Wetlands of Australia.

This lake is considered to be in near pristine condition and, when full, is the largest body of fresh water in the Tanami Desert. It is known to provide important habitat for waterbirds and fish.  Another large saline lake systems, Lake MacKay also occurs within the proposed IPA, and have international significance as episodic breeding grounds for wetland bird species protected under international treaties.


Proposed Katiti/ Petermann Ranges IPA

The CLC is currently conducting a feasibility study for a third IPA in the region

This area is in the southwest of the Northern Territory and borders three states: WA, SA and the NT. It is the traditional land of the Pitjantjatjara people and surrounds the small community of Docker River.

The country has rugged quartzite and granite ranges and gently undulating spinifex sandplains. There are also vast saline lake systems of the Great Sandy Desert. Water places in the arid zone have inherent cultural and biological values and the region contains a range of wetland types, some of which have high biological (as well as cultural) significance. The area also provides habitat for a number of nationally  threatened species such as the black-footed rock-wallaby, princess parrot, mulgara, great desert skink and marsupial mole, and supports a range of threatened or nationally significant plant species.

Part of the planning activities to date have involved traditional owners and the Kaltukatjara Rangers (based at Docker River) working with CLC staff and scientists to undertake fauna survey work at a number of culturally and biologically important sites across the region, and assisting in wetland monitoring projects and camel management activities. This year (2012) there will be an emphasis on developing and implementing regional fire management plans to reduce the risk of large uncontrolled wildfires. Declaration of the proposed IPA would greatly enhance regional conservation efforts as the proposed boundary completely surrounds Uluru Kata-Tjuta National Park, adjoins Watarrka National Park in the NT, and adjoins the Ngaanyatjarra IPA on the West Australian Border. There exists huge potential for significant biodiversity and cultural management outcomes on a broad scale.