Land Rights News Central Australia: Land Rights News (August 2012)

Published: August, 2012

Conservation zone, biggest in the land

Hundreds of Warlpiri people turned up at a remote campsite in the Tanami Desert early in July to celebrate the declaration of more than 100,000 sq km of their country as an Indigenous Protected Area.

The declaration, at Sangster’s Bore,  made it the biggest protected area on the Australian mainland.

The Tanami Desert, to the west of Alice Springs,  has some of the highest densities of Australia’s most threatened wildlife species, including mulgara, bilbies and the great desert skink.

The IPA will be managed and maintained by the Central Land Council’s Warlpiri Rangers and traditional owners, with funding from the Department of Sustainability, Environment, Water, Population and Communities and The Nature Conservancy group.

The declaration also means the area will be managed to international standards.

It will create precious employment, education and training opportunities, and other social benefits for the three Aboriginal communities of Nyrripi, Yuendumu and Willowra, where most of the traditional owners live.

The Southern Tanami’s mainly Warlpiri traditional owners still gather bush tucker, hunt, and carry out ceremonies in the area, fulfilling strong cultural and spiritual obligations to look after the country. 

Traditional owner Lottie Napanangka Williams-Robertson said she felt “really happy” about the declaration.

“It is really important for us,” she said.

“It’s our land, our life and our law. That’s where we get our culture from passed down from generation to generation. We need to be able to look after our country well because that’s where  our ancestral spirits people are still living today and we respect that.

“We are really proud of our young people, our rangers  because  we can see they are doing a really good job looking after it now.

“When you look after the country it look after you.”

Senior Warlpiri Ranger Madeline Napangardi Dixon said it was essential to use both cultural and contemporary methods to protect land.

“For me as a ranger, going out bush with other rangers, we just feel really good, just going out,” she said.

“Being on country we are trying to look after those endangered animals, get rid of the ferals, look after waterholes and manage bush fires.”
Central Land Council Chairman Phillip Wilyuka congratulated the traditional owners, scientists and land management experts for the extensive work that led to the declaration.

“The traditional owners are pleased because they feel that this country needs looking after both ways now , with difficult challenges like weeds and camels these days”,  Mr Wilyuka said. 

He said that the declaration of the IPA was a valuable investment by the Australian Government and a boost to the Warlpiri communities.

“This is really good for the people who live there and it gives them hope and support to stay on country when so many other things pulling their young people away,” he said.

“The ranger program is really popular and it’s the job that most young Aboriginal people on communities want to do now.

“They all love it, it’s real work and they get great training and lots of skills and it makes the old people really happy with them.”

The Southern Tanami IPA provides the framework to protect and maintain ecological and cultural assets, including two internationally important conservation sites.

 It is also the single largest contribution to the proposed Territory Eco-link, a globally significant 2000 kilometre long conservation corridor that will provide ecosystem resilience in a changing climate.