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25 September 2009
GARRETT: These two Indigenous Protected Areas will add a huge conservation corridor to Australia’s National Reserve System and provide incredible opportunities for Aboriginal communities in the Top End to manage country and build skills in fire management, in feral and weed management. And it is a gift from Aboriginal communities, including all of the clan groups in this area, not only to their kids and their successors but also to the whole of the country.
This is one of the most important conservation declarations that we have seen and it is one of the most important commitments by Aboriginal communities to continue to manage their country in consistency with their culture but to build modern skills and using modern technology in fire management, feral and weed management and the like and it is an absolutely critically important day for us here in Australia and I am delighted to be on country to make these announcements.
JOURNALIST: What are the financial commitments by the Commonwealth to support these?
GARRETT: We’re providing over $1 million in each of these Indigenous Protected Areas and over the four year term $8 million for Indigenous Protected Areas. We have some 30 Indigenous Protected Areas or so in Australia now. The addition of Warddeken Djelk, when you add it to Kakadu National Park which they abut, will provide us with a conservation zone in northern Australia equivalent to the size of a small European nation - that is how big these announcements are. And the Government is strongly committed to Indigenous Protected Areas because they have shown over time to be one of the best ways in which people can live and work on country, receive proper and appropriate wages and do work which builds their skills for the long term.
JOURNALIST: But Minister it seems this is also a very cheap way to meet the commitment to develop the National Reserve System. Don’t they need far more funding than that – it is a vast area isn’t it?
GARRETT: Well we are providing additional funding as well through Working on Country and supporting Indigenous Rangers too, and I would say that the commitment that the Commonwealth has made not only through Indigenous Protected Areas but also through Working on Country and Indigenous Ranger support is significant.
And I would also say that the commitment is a long term commitment and it builds on the work that these communities have already done – the work that these rangers have done, showing the high level of professionalism and skills development and they work collaboratively with Customs, the work collaboratively with Quarantine, they work closely with park managers, NT park managers as well – and over time Indigenous Protected Areas are becoming one of the most important conservation mechanisms that we have in our country but they are also about empowering community as well, so it is a win-win.
JOURNALIST: If these two new areas are to be well managed it is going to require people to move back onto country isn’t it? [inaudible]
GARRETT: You know, I have had an incredible two days – I have flown over the rocky escarpments and high country of Warddeken, I have come down through these incredible, vibrant, healthy river systems into the area of Djelk, and I can see already that the work that rangers have done in managing their county is of a very high order.
You know, to put it in sort of lay-terms, this country is in some of the best nick that I have seen since I have been environment minister. And as a consequence I think that the rangers here have a very, very good knowledge of what they need to do to manage their country. Yes, it will mean that people are on country more than they have been in the past but I think that is a good thing because at the end of the day, healthy country means healthy people and the connection between the work that Indigenous Rangers are doing and the healthy communities that they are inhabiting is a very direct one.
GARRETT: Well look, I am here today to celebrate something which I think is absolutely critical and that is the declaration of two extraordinary Indigenous Protected Areas and I think that we need to be absolutely clear that the contribution that these IPA declarations are going to mean to communities is a significant one. And I have had nothing but positive feedback from Traditional Owners, from elders, and from the rangers themselves and I am very confident that people here will take these declarations, manage their country well, open up the possibility for sustainable livelihood over time – there is the opportunity for scientific research, there is the opportunity for forms of tourism– and they build a suite of skills which in the long run will serve them and their kids very, very well.
JOURNALIST: [inaudible] there is a need for people to move back onto country but at the same time there is a need for [inaudible]?
GARRETT: Well look what I am focusing on is making sure that we do the necessary work in consultation before we have declared Indigenous Protected Areas, that we provide support for them so they can do the work that I think they want to do and recognise, very importantly, that this is a partnership – it is a partnership between communities, Traditional Owners and others and it is a partnership that the Government values very much indeed.