Western Australia’s Kimberley region is an area of spectacular natural beauty harboring unique landscapes and wildlife, along with one of the world’s last unspoilt coastlines. Scientific studies have shown it is one of the most pristine marine areas on Earth. It is also home to an Aboriginal culture that is tens of thousands of years old.
Stretching across an area nearly twice the size of Victoria, the Kimberley is comparable in size, health and uniqueness to the Great Barrier Reef and the Amazon rainforest. British naturalist David Attenborough described the area’s Horizontal Falls as “one of the greatest natural wonders of the world.”
Other standout features:
- The Kimberley’s coastal waters are a ‘marine superhighway’ for an estimated 30,000 humpback whales—the world's largest population—making their way to warm tropical waters each year to breed. These waters also provide critical habitats for the newly discovered snubfin dolphin and six of the world's seven species of marine turtles.
- It is home to 72 native mammal species, 295 bird species, 178 reptile species and 51 amphibian species.
- The northern Kimberley is the only region in Western Australia—and one of the few in the entire country—where extinctions of mammal species have not been recorded.
With few existing protections, the Kimberley is at risk. Increasing pressure to open a new mining frontier along with the impacts of fires, invasive weeds and feral animals threaten to tip the balance. Unless action is taken, these pressures will continue to intensify and lead to irreversible and widespread environmental degradation, with both social and economic costs.
Pew is working with government, conservation, fishing, tourism and Indigenous groups to secure long-term protection for the Kimberley’s unique marine life and its rugged natural landscapes through the creation of the Great Kimberley Marine Park and adjacent protected areas on land.
We are also working with the Kimberley Land Council and Traditional Owners to secure an increase in the number of rangers and Indigenous Protected Areas. The Indigenous Ranger and protected area program is a great success story that is recognised around the world.
Pew supports the Western Australian Government’s commitment to protect the region through the Kimberley Science and Conservation Strategy, which includes establishing a Great Kimberley Marine Park over more than 500 km of coast as well as new national parks and nature reserves. We strongly supported the Western Australian Premier’s announcement in 2015 that 175,000 hectares of the stunning and biodiverse Mitchell Plateau would be permanently protected from mining.
We are working with conservation organisations to create comprehensive conservation and development plans for the Kimberley region.
Through our Like Nowhere Else effort, we collaborate with leading international and Australian conservation organisations for the long-term protection of the Kimberley's land and marine environments. Read our five-point plan to protect the Kimberley.
Learn more about the wonder of the Kimberley, as well as some of the challenges it faces:
Great Western Woodlands
The Great Western Woodlands consists of 16 million hectares (40 million acres) of intact temperate woodlands, trees, mallees and shrublands, across a healthy landscape that connects Australia’s south-west corner to its inland deserts.
Pew works with Traditional Owners, conservation groups, local residents and the mining industry to secure long-term protections and sound management plans for the Great Western Woodlands.
In 2010, the state government declared four new conservation reserves in the region, covering a total of approximately 526,000 hectares (1.3 million acres). In 2014, after almost two decades, the Federal Court of Australia recognised the Ngadju Traditional Owners’ claim to more than 100,000 square kilometres of land in the region. We are working closely with the Ngadju, and the local conservation organisation Gondwana Link, to ensure that the Ngadju are supported in protecting the vast area of woodlands now under their exclusive ownership and management.
Listen to Ngadju Traditional Owner Les Schultz talk about his people’s plans for living on their land and carving out an independent future through conservation work: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ShuL_VqJNHw
Southwest marine region
The southwest marine region is extensive and diverse, covering some 1.3 million square kilometres of both temperate and subtropical waters. It extends offshore from Kangaroo Island in the south to Shark Bay in Western Australia, adjacent to the world’s longest coastline facing the Southern Ocean and Antarctica.
These deep waters are also home to high numbers of unique marine life. Pew leads a coalition of conservation, community and science organisations that in 2012 helped to secure protections for the southwest’s waters.
We are working to secure the long-term health of the southwest oceans’ waters by establishing a network of marine sanctuaries to protect the diversity of life there.
In 2014, Australia’s new Federal government suspended the operation of the nation’s network of sanctuaries. Despite more than a decade of bipartisan support, science research and overwhelming community endorsement, sanctuaries for marine life are now at risk of being removed and sensitive ecosystems exposed to potential exploitation.
Pew is taking an evidence-based approach to demonstrating the importance of marine sanctuaries and the economic, environmental and social benefits they provide for all Australians.
We are working alongside dive tourism operators, anglers, local communities, businesses and marine scientists to ensure that the government’s review strengthens protections for marine life in the southwest and that its shared ocean heritage is cared for properly.
Outback Western Australia
Covering almost half of Western Australia, the Outback is among a handful of intact natural regions remaining on the planet. Outback WA is a vast, interconnected landscape that stretches from the tropical savanna of the Kimberley through the Pilbara, Gascoyne, Goldfields and Great Western Woodlands, the largest remaining temperate woodland in the world.
The animal and plant life of Outback WA is extraordinarily diverse. Across the landscape thrives a rich tapestry of native species, often in challenging conditions. An astonishing variety of birds—550 species—has been documented here, including honeyeaters, thornbills, whistlebirds and majestic Carnaby’s black cockatoos. Endangered animals such as the northern quoll inhabit the rocky gorges of the Kimberley, and lizards are prolific in the harsh conditions of the desert regions. Throughout the Outback, spectacular wildflowers bloom from July to November.
The history of Outback WA is characterised by the spirit and determination of its people, who have played a central role in shaping the state’s economy and culture and the way in which Western Australians define themselves. Outback WA is the birthplace of the state’s gold rush, which began in the late 1890s, as well as a rich Indigenous cultural heritage. Today’s pastoral and agricultural industries were founded by the hard work of early European settlers who were living in some of the world’s most remote areas.
The heart of WA is at a crossroads, however. The Outback’s health is vulnerable to the indiscriminate spread, and often toxic legacy, of mining and is under direct threat from uncontrolled fires, large-scale clearing of native vegetation, and the impact of noxious weeds and feral animals.
Many parts of Outback WA now have fewer people than at any time in the past 50,000 years. Scientists have determined that this has led to local extinctions of native species, such as the bilby, and also to the uncontrolled spread of destructive fires, feral animals and weeds.
To conserve the Outback’s natural heritage, more people, not fewer, are needed to live on and actively manage the country. Today’s rich diversity of life, which has been nurtured for tens of thousands of years, requires long-term protection and hands-on management to ensure its survival. A historic opportunity exists to create a modern Outback that sustains its people and values its nature.
Pew is working with Indigenous groups, pastoralists, science and conservation groups<link to http://www.outbackwa.org.au/> to create greater options for land managers to invest in sustainable industries that encourage people to remain on the land, actively caring for it and keeping it healthy.
We support changes that would ‘take the brakes off’ the people and nature of Outback WA, including:
- Modernising WA’s pastoral lease laws to allow people to move into sustainable enterprises that also help care for the land.
- Boosting Indigenous Ranger programs that create jobs, strengthen communities and get people back on country, keeping the land healthy.
- Offering stewardship programs that provide incentives and support for pastorals to restore the land.