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 traditional owners in the CLC region are generally supportive of the IPA program.
The CLC has four declared Indigenous Protected Area on Aboriginal land in its region.
The Indigenous Protected Areas component of the Australian government’s initiative supports Indigenous communities to manage their land as IPAs, and these areas then contribute to the National Reserve System.
The Northern Tanami 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 walpajirri (bilby), warrana (great desert skink), jajina (mulgara) and pujarr-pujurrpa (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 Northern Tanami Rangers. The rangers work closely with traditional owners and IPA staff to undertake important fire management, threatened species conservation work, cultural site maintenance, 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 include the development of a feral animal management strategy, implementation 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 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 covers the the southern portion of the Tanami and its traditional owners live mainly 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 lakes, swamps and waterholes, biologically 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.
The Southern Tanami IPA also supports one of the most significant remnant populations of the bilby, an iconic and culturally significant marsupial that used to range over much of inland Australia prior to European settlement. Warlpiri Rangers have been intensively monitoring bilby populations on the IPA for over a decade now, and they work with senior Yapa on the Warlu (Fire Management) Committee to plan and implement annual protective burning work to ensure this nationally threatened species thrives within the IPA.