A Big Win for the Karajarri country in the Kimberley



 A Big Win for the Karajarri country in the Kimberley

An ecologically important region has become the newest Indigenous Protected Area. The declaration was achieved with planning and support from The Nature Conservancy.

Karajarri Country


2.5 million hectares is a significant area of land which is actually larger than the whole of the Australian Capital Territory!

That is the size of the newest Indigenous Protected Area (IPA) in Australia, the Karajarri country in the Kimberley south of Broome.

In May 2014, The Nature Conservancy’s Australia Program (TNC), in conjunction with Pew Charitable Trusts and the Kimberley Land Council, worked with the Karajarri people to develop a comprehensive plan which will assist the traditional owners manage this biodiverse hotspot and protect some of the Kimberley’s most vulnerable and threatened species.

“This is a big win for the environment and we’re thrilled to be a part of it”, TNC’s Australia Program Director, Richard Gilmore said. “Indigenous Protected Areas are an important part of TNC’s strategy because they enable land to be managed for conservation by indigenous groups who successfully looked after their country for tens of thousands of years. We’re honored to support the Karajarri Traditional Owners as they take over caring for their country.”

The Karajarri Vision

The Karajarri people’s vision embodies the essence of the IPA declaration.

“Karajarri is unique: our country, people, language, and culture. Karajarri carry the responsibility to keep our country good for our future generations. This is recognised from Pukarrikarra and in our native title rights. Under our law it is our responsibility to look after our traditional lands, our country. Our vision is to look after our country, as we have done for thousands of years.” 

So Many Species

Karajarri country is one of the most ecologically important regions in Western Australia. The coast at Mangkuna (Corkbark) about 35km south of Bidyadanga is a breeding and feeding ground for threatened and migratory sea turtle species such as the Green, Olive Ridley, Hawksbill, Loggerhead Turtles. Dugongs and Snubfin Dolphins also inhabit the area.

The eastern desert country is home to many threatened animal species such as the nationally endangered Gouldian Finch, Northern Marsupial Mole, Northern Quoll and the vulnerable Princess Parrot and Greater Bilby. In total there are five bird species, six mammal species, nine reptile species and four fish species listed as nationally threatened in Karajarri country.

Cultural Site Protection

There are significant cultural sites right throughout Karajarri country. These sites include fish traps, ceremonial areas and Pulany (mythical Serpent) sites. Other important places on country are freshwater spring systems, historical sites such as the La Grange mission, burial sites, pearling camps and the old ration depot. Archaeological sites contain fossils and extensive middens (mollusc shells that are interpreted as being the waste products of meals eaten by Indigenous Australians), burial sites and Aboriginal rock art. 

Planning and Support

The Healthy Country Planning process is an adaptation of The Nature Conservancy’s Conservation Action Planning. The resultant Healthy Country Plan are effectively a management plan for country, a prerequisite to securing an IPA. TNC worked with the Karajarri people on this plan which will help to conserve the land, species and culture for future generations. This plan is a prerequisite to securing an IPA. TNC assisted the Karajarri people on this plan which will help to conserve the land, species and culture for future generations.

Senior Karajarri Ranger Jessica Bangu said the declaration of the Indigenous Protected Area promoted Aboriginal leadership and would ensure Traditional Owners were at the forefront of managing their country.

“Indigenous Protected Areas let us look after and protect our country, the way our old people want us to. We also need to make sure we work to minimise the threats to our country and people including climate change, lack of access to country, loss of knowledge and culture, commercial fishing, mining and exploration and insufficient fire regimes,” Ms Bangu said.

To date, TNC have assisted with a combination of the planning, critical management and funding of a total of ten IPAs in Australia covering just under 20 million hectares.

TNC Australia Division Director, Richard Gilmore said this declaration is significant for TNC because it contributes directly to one of our Northern Australia goals of a comprehensive and effectively managed system of conservation lands to be established from the Kimberley to Cape York.

“This new protected area is immensely important—for Australia, for its wildlife and for its people,” Mr Gilmore concluded. 

You can help support conservation projects like this one when you donate to The Nature Conservancy.