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Media Release
Senator the Hon Robert Hill
Federal Environment Minister

5 September 2001

PARUKU BECOMES WA's FIRST INDIGNEOUS PROTECTED AREA


A vast desert wetland system of national and international significance in the Kimberley is to be conserved with the declaration of Western Australia's first Indigenous Protected Area.

Federal Environment Minister Robert Hill congratulated the Traditional Owners of Paruku (Lake Gregory), the Tjurabalan native title holders, on their decision to manage their lands for the conservation of natural and cultural values.

"The Paruku Indigenous Protected Area (IPA) takes in a magnificent wetlands complex in the south-east of the Kimberley, 170 km south of Halls Creek, which supports hundreds of thousands of waterbirds," Senator Hill said at a function in the Aboriginal community of Mulan today to mark the declaration.

"The IPA covers 434,600 hectares. This includes 38,700 hectares of lakes and waterholes that support at least 73 species of waterbird and 175 species of aquatic invertebrates.

"Paruku is of national and international significance for wetland conservation, and of immense cultural importance to its Aboriginal owners. As one of the most important inland wetlands in Australia, it supports the largest breeding colony of Little Black Cormorant in Australia, is a major stopover area for migrating shorebirds, and is a major drought refuge for waterfowl."

These critical habitats for breeding waterbirds comprise about one-eighth of the IPA and the community has committed to manage this area primarily for cultural heritage, ecosystem protection and recreation, similar to a national park.

The remainder of the IPA will be managed to maintain biodiversity while enabling the sustainable grazing of cattle and other enterprises to meet community needs.

"Through this declaration, the Traditional Owners of Paruku will protect this ecologically and culturally significant land for the benefit of all Australians with the support of Environment Australia," Senator Hill said.

"I congratulate them on the generosity of their action, and thank the Kimberley Land Council for working with the Traditional Owners on this initiative over the last few years."

Paruku is the Walmajarri name for the entire wetland system that includes Lake Gregory, Lera Waterhole, Guda Plain, Yuinby Plan, Bulbi Plain, Rilya Waterhole, Gillung (Delivery Camp) Plain, Stretch Lagoon and lower Sturt Creek.

Paraku and Sturt Creek are within the area of the Tjurabalan native title determination, handed down by the Federal Court two weeks ago, which recognised the rights and interests of the Traditional Owners.

The Indigenous Protected Areas Program, supported by the Federal Government's Natural Heritage Trust, is part of the National Reserve System Program which aims to establish a network of protected areas incorporating a representative sample of all types of ecosystems across the country.

Paruku is the 15th IPA declared in Australia and takes the total amount of land under this category of protection to 3.6 million hectares.

More information about the IPA program can be found at:
http://www.ea.gov.au/indigenous/ipa/index.html

5 September 2001

Contact: Belinda Huppatz (Senator Hill's office) 02 6277 7640 or 0419 258 364

Paruku Indigenous Protected Area Factsheet

Print quality images of the event (jpg format) can be emailed upon request, contact: public.affairs@environment.gov.au.

Commonwealth of Australia