The Northern Tanami: Indigenous engagement
State: NT | Hectares: 4,005,00 | IUCN Category: VI | Partners: Central Land Council
Thousands of years of land management experience come in very handy when you're running a conservation reserve. When the Aboriginal owners of much of the Northern Tanami desert decided to manage four million hectares of their land as an Indigenous Protected Area (IPA), the Australian Government and Central Land Council were delighted to lend a hand.
The Northern Tanami IPA now forms a valuable part of the National Reserve System, helping to preserve the stunning desert plains and arid wetlands that characterise this part of the Tanami.
Despite the desert label, the property is teeming with life. At least two thirds of it has been identified as a biodiversity hotspot and the land is a refuge for vulnerable species including the greater bilby and great desert skink.
The property covers a dramatic array of landscapes. From ancient river beds and sandstone outcrops to the black soil plains in the north, this country is just stunning. Arid zone wetlands explode into new life with each year's monsoonal rains, providing breeding habitat for migratory waterbirds and supporting traditional Aboriginal food sources like wallabies and emus.
Central Land Council Director David Ross says the community wanted to protect all of this - but there was lots of work to do managing weeds, fire and feral animals, so they came to the land council for help.
"We helped them draw up a plan of management for their land with some funding from the Australian Government's Indigenous Protected Areas Program," he says. "Now the Government gives them ongoing funding to keep this special country healthy."
The land has a large number of cultural sites, dreaming tracks and historic locations for the Warlpiri and Gurindji people, and remains a dynamic cultural landscape supporting the spiritual and social wellbeing of around 1,200 traditional Aboriginal landowners.
The area has been managed actively by Aboriginal people for nearly 40,000 years - keeping the risk of mega-fire down by patch burning, sustainably harvesting native animals and looking after the area's sacred sites. Today the land's Indigenous owners are building on this rich history, using traditional ways of managing the land alongside contemporary western methods so the land gets the best of both approaches.
For the Lajamanu community, managing their land as an IPA opens the door to social benefits as well as helping the environment. Gurindji man Billy Bunter says the whole community is getting involved in the IPA.
"The IPA is helping create good jobs, like rangers to take care of country. It is giving young people opportunities day by day," he says. "Young people really enjoy working on the IPA and old people enjoy going out with them. Women really enjoy taking children out for stories."