Brewarrina Ngemba Billabong
Photos courtesy of Feli Mchughes and Australian Government. (Top) Open woodlands are a feature at Brewarrina Ngemba Billabong. (Middle) Keeping culture strong, teaching the younger generation life skills. (Bottom) Ngemba Billabong wetlands.
Brewarrina, New South Wales | Declared in November 2010
Our billabong is significant to our culture, our wellbeing, our value, Baiame's healing, Australia's reconciliation healing, Australia's environment, Australia's conservation and restoration.
Feli Mchughes, traditional owner
The rivers, lakes and floodplains of Brewarrina Ngemba Billagong Indigenous Protected Area provide an essential home to endangered species, particularly in times of drought.
Located on the Barwon River, the 261 hectare property is part of the Murray-Darling Basin. Four endangered species make their home at Brewarrina Ngemba Billabong - the brolga, the blue-billed duck, the freckled duck and the red-tailed black cockatoo. The property's emergent wetlands and open woodlands contain such plants as native water lilies, river redgums and coolibah.
The Brewarrina Ngemba Billabong also has a strong cultural history. From 1876 to 1967 the Ngemba Billabong was the Brewarrina Aboriginal Mission for local Aboriginal people whose land was taken for grazing. In recognition of its past, the entire 261 hectare property is listed on the New South Wales State Heritage Register.
Despite having their land removed, the Ngemba people retained their relationship with the Barwon and Cato Rivers, and the children played in the billabong.
Long before European settlement, Brewarrina was an important tribal meeting place. Evidence of its importance remains in the region with scar trees, camp sites and fish traps still visible across the landscape. Land management is important to the traditional owners because it provides job opportunities for the local community, and helps continue the traditions of culture and custodianship.
In particular young Indigenous people in Brewarrina face many challenges including a lack of employment and education opportunities. Today Brewarrina Ngemba Billabong is helping to provide training to young people on country in land management. In 2009 the Ngemba Billabong Restoration and Landcare group were recognised for this contribution to their community at the NSW Landcare Awards.
Closing the Gap remains an important part of the protected area's management plan. The plan promotes a socially-inclusive community by encouraging members of all ages to spend time on the property, learning and teaching each other its history and how to conserve the property.
Feli Mchughes, Kathy Tibbitts and Binda-Billa state 'Once these skills and faith is gained, social inclusion will occur on a natural and equal scale.'
Brewarrina Ngemba Billabong Indigenous Protected Area also has a vision to use this area as a place of reconciliation between cultures. They intend to do this by developing recreational facilities on their country so everyone has the opportunity to visit and enjoy the billabong. The Brewarrina Ngemba Billabong IPA has been declared a International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) Category V and VI protected area, managed mainly for landscape conservation and recreation and for the sustainable use of natural ecosystems.
The IPA is part of Australia's National Reserve System - a nation-wide network of reserves especially set up to protect examples of Australia's unique landscapes, plants and animals for current and future generations. The Brewarrina Local Aboriginal Land Council receives funding from the Indigenous Protected Area Program which is part of the Australian Government's Caring for our Country initiative.