New Indigenous Protected Area Declared in Australia

Australia's world-leading indigenous protected areas program continues to set new standards for conservation. At a ceremony in the desert of Western Australia on April 23, the 54th such area was created, extending the total amount of Australia now protected by its Traditional Owners to an area larger than California.

Covering 6.6 million hectares of traditional lands of the Martu people in central Western Australia, the new Birriliburu Indigenous Protected Area will safeguard a high number of vulnerable and threatened species, ancient rock art, and part of the historic Canning Stock Route. 

Little Sandy Desert

“The Australian Government is proudly supporting the Birriliburu native titleholders to dedicate this indigenous protected area,” Tony Burke, the Australian environment minister, says in a news release. “It's another great example of Indigenous Australians successfully managing their country while providing local employment through Indigenous Ranger programs.”  

Similar to national parks, these areas protect unique landscapes, plants, and animals but are managed directly by their Indigenous Owners with a combination of local traditional knowledge and contemporary science. In addition to conservation, these areas maintain traditional culture, support Indigenous Owners on their land, and allow skills development and employment. 

The Birriliburu Indigenous Protected Area stretches from the nationally significant Carnarvon Range or Katjarra in the local language to Constance Headland or Mungarlu along Western Australia's famous, 1,800-kilometer (1,120-mile) Canning Stock Route. It is the product of years of planning and consultation led by the area's Indigenous owners the Martu. For more than 25,000 years, the land's Traditional Owners have lived on and managed in the time-tested way this diverse landscape made up of everything from sand dunes and sandstone mountain ranges to salt lakes and claypans, in which rainwater collects.

“Places like the Birriliburu Indigenous Protected Area are an absolutely critical part of managing Australia's fragile Outback,” says Patrick O'Leary, Pew's manager of conservation partnerships. “These areas are needed not only to safeguard Australia's unique landscape, but because they provide much-needed jobs for local Indigenous people. These protected areas are a win-win for all Australians.”


Video: Birriliburu Indigenous Protected Area Declaration Ceremony, April 2013

Courtesy of Central Desert Native Title Services.

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