Australia is home to some of the planet’s most wild natural environments. From the tropical north to the red centre and the surrounding oceans, Outback Australia is one of the wildest and most intact places on Earth. In an increasingly industrialised and populated world, the Outback ranks alongside the Amazon, the Sahara, Antarctica and the boreal forests of Canada in sheer size and intact health.
An ancient place of stark extremes and exquisite beauty, for tens of thousands of years the Outback has hosted the world’s oldest living civilisation—Australia’s First Nations communities. It is also a landscape rich in culture and biodiversity, with some of the world’s most unusual plants and animals and an array of communities, cultures and stories. A vast tapestry of deeply interconnected landscapes that cover more than 70% of the Australian continent, the Outback remains largely untouched by industrialisation. Rivers still flow unchecked to the sea and wildlife still moves over long distances, as it has for eons.
The oceans surrounding Australia are equally exceptional. From the tropics to temperate and sub-Antarctic seas, there are coral reefs and atolls, seagrass and mangroves, deep sea canyons and undersea mountains. The waters off Australia’s northwestern Kimberley coast provide a large and healthy haven for sharks, dolphins, turtles, whales and dugong, a mammal closely related to the manatee. And where the wild Southern Ocean meets the coastline that was once connected to Antarctica, up to 90% of an array of marine species are found only there, having evolved in isolation for 50 million years. Australia’s northerly Top End coast is one of the last remaining intact tropical coastlines in the world.
Such places are of increasing importance to the wellbeing of the planet and its peoples. Despite its largely robust health, however, the Outback and surrounding seas are under active and increasing threat. The Outback has already lost many of its mammal species. Further extinctions are now imminent as numerous birds and mammals are in decline. Many districts of the Outback are now empty of people and have no active land management. Uncontrolled wildfires, invasive feral animals and noxious weeds are rapidly degrading healthy lands. Industrialisation driven by the expansion of mining and large-scale irrigation is entering many regions for the first time.
Pew seeks to support the work of Indigenous communities, scientists, conservation organizations, regional townships, industry and government agencies in ensuring that these unique and important intact Outback landscapes and seas remain in good shape, supporting healthy ecosystems and the communities that rely on them. We do this in ways that help create sustainable opportunities for local people and communities, particularly for the Traditional Owners.