Declaration recognises Indigenous land managers 

Indigenous children in Arnhem Land - image courtesy Tourism NT

The recent declaration of the Djelk and Warrdeken Indigenous Protected Areas (IPAs) in western and central Arnhem Land in the Northern Territory demonstrates a growing recognition by the Australian Government of the crucial role Indigenous people play in managing northern Australian ecosystems.

North Australian Indigenous Land and Sea Management Alliance (NAILSMA) Chief Executive Officer Joe Morrison believes the growing recognition of Indigenous land and sea management is due to the success of Indigenous land management organisations in northern Australia, and a high level of commitment shown by Traditional Owners.

“Traditional Owners represented by the Bawinanga Aboriginal Corporation’s Djelk Rangers and Warrddeken Land Management are to be congratulated on the declaration of their respective Indigenous Protected Area,” said Mr Morrison.

“The recognition by the Government of the ecological and cultural values of their land and the skill and hard work of the people who have managed that land for millennia is very welcome, but long over due.

“Importantly, these declarations also recognise the inherent customary rights and obligations of Indigenous land managers as vital if the nation is to meet its international obligations to protect the biodiversity, cultural practices and knowledge that have shaped the north’s unique environmental values.

“Indigenous people across north Australia—from the Kimberley, Top End, Gulf country and Cape York—continue their long history of looking after country. The health of many globally significant ecosystems in the north can be attributed to 60,000 years of careful Indigenous management,” he said.

Indigenous communities apply for Indigenous Protected Area status for land they own and manage. Declared IPAs now account for nearly 21 million hectares of the National Reserve System.

Mr Morrison extended NAILSMA’s congratulations to “the many Traditional Owners and their staff for the hard work and commitment they have displayed towards the management and development of their estates.

“We encourage Minister Garrett to continue to build on this success and ensure a long term sustainable base is created in partnership with Indigenous groups”.

NAILSMA is an alliance of the Kimberley Land Council, Northern Land Council, Carpentaria Land Council Aboriginal Cooperation and Balkanu Cape York Development Corporation.