Department of the Environment

Archived media releases and speeches

The Hon Tony Burke MP

Minister for Sustainability, Environment, Water, Population and Communities

Uunguu - a conservation milestone in the Kimberley

Media release
23 May 2011

More than 3,400 square kilometres of spectacular north Kimberley coastline will be protected with the declaration today of the Uunguu Indigenous Protected Area (IPA).

At ceremonies near the remote settlement of Garmbemirri, the Federal Court of Australia granted the traditional owners native title over 26,000 square kilometres of the Kimberley - and the traditional owners immediately declared that part of this country would be formally managed for conservation.

Environment Minister Tony Burke sent his congratulations to hundreds of traditional owners who had travelled across the Kimberley for the historic ceremonies.

"This is a groundbreaking decision for the Wunambal Gaambera people - and a great conservation gift to all Australians," Mr Burke said.

"Uunguu, meaning 'living home', abounds in native wildlife including many threatened species. Dolphins, dugong and marine turtles are found in seagrass beds off the coast and sand goanna, bush turkey, euro and rock wallabies live in spectacular woodland and escarpment country.

"Countless significant rock art sites form one of the most stunning open air art galleries in Western Australia."

Mr Burke said the Australian Government had made a $23.7 million funding commitment through Working on Country to employ over 65 Aboriginal rangers in the Kimberley region by June 2013.

"We've invested in the Uunguu ranger group to provide jobs on country as part of that commitment. We've also invested $740,000 over three years to support the Wunambal Gaambera people to manage their IPA and to work towards protecting their entire country," he said.

"Indigenous Protected Areas and Working on Country rangers are one of Australia's most successful conservation stories - they protect Australia's biodiversity while providing training and employment for Aboriginal people doing work that they love on their own country. It is a significant investment in Closing the Gap of Indigenous disadvantage."

Mr Burke also thanked not-for-profit organisation Bush Heritage Australia for helping the Wunambal Gaambera people develop their Uunguu healthy country management plan.

"It's fantastic to see partnerships like this between the Australian Government, a not-for-profit organisation and a local community to achieve great environmental outcomes," he said.

Bush Heritage chief executive Doug Humann said Bush Heritage had signed a new 10-year agreement with the Wunambal Gaambera people to help manage their IPA.

"This valuable partnership demonstrates a key part of our mission - to work with Indigenous people to manage and protect high conservation value landscapes. Few landscapes are more important for conservation than those of the Wunambal Gaambera in the Kimberley," Mr Humann said.

For more information about Uunguu IPA: www.environment.gov.au/indigenous/ipa/declared/uunguu.