Southern Tanami declared a conservation zone

Posted: Wed, July 11, 2012

The southern Tanami is now the largest conservation zone in Australia

More than 10 million hectares of the southern Tanami Desert has been declared as an Indigenous Protected Area (IPA) making  it the largest protected area on the Australian mainland.

The Tanami Desert lies to the west of Alice Springs and has some of the highest densities of Australia’s most threatened wildlife species.

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

The declaration also means that the area is managed to international standards and 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 and exercise very strong cultural and spiritual obligations looking after the country. 

Central Land Council Chairman  Phillip Wilyuka congratulated the traditional owners, scientists and land management experts for their extensive work to enable  the area to be protected with an IPA.

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

Mr Wilyuka said that the declaration of the IPA is 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.

“These Warlpiri rangers already have a lot of skills because they’ve been looking after this country for a few years now with the help of senior people,” Mr Wilyuka said.

The Southern Tanami IPA provides the framework to protect and maintain ecological and cultural assets including two internationally important sites for conservation. It is also the single largest contribution to the proposed Territory Eco-link, a globally significant 2000 kilometre long conservation corridor which will provide ecosystem resilience in a changing climate.

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

“In the past our old people looked after country and kept it strong. Now there are new problems coming in, like weeds, feral animals and big wildfires,” Ms Dixon said. “Today we want to work both ways (combining Aboriginal knowledge and Western science) to keep country healthy,” she said.

  10 July 2012