#20more – Indigenous rangers call to grow and secure Indigenous Protected Areas on 20th anniversary

Published: 3 Dec 2018

Indigenous rangers from around Australia converged on Parliament today to call on all major parties to grow and secure Indigenous Protected Area funding.

The group, who form part of the Country Needs People alliance of 40 Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander organisations and the Pew Charitable Trusts, are recognising 20 years of one of Australia’s best kept secrets the Indigenous Protected Area program, which now constitutes more than half of Australia’s protected areas.

An Indigenous Protected Area is an Indigenous-led partnership with government through which traditional owners protect natural and cultural values on their country.

Nyangumarta Warrarn Aboriginal Corporation chief executive officer Nyaparu Rose said the Indigenous Protected Area on her country had given her people better opportunities to reinvigorate connection to country.

“As a Nyangumarta elder, I am very proud of our Indigenous Protected Area for the Nyangumarta People. Having our IPA allows us to maintain our significant sites, and look after our country – from the desert to the sea.”

Senator Patrick Dodson and Nyul Nyul Ranger Albert Wiggan

Senior Gunditjmara traditional owner Denis Rose worked with the Federal Environment Department on the development of the Indigenous Protected Area program.

“This is now the fastest growing part of Australia’s protected area network, and that’s because we developed a world-leading model that puts traditional owners’ aspirations to care for country at the front.”

“We should be asking how we can replicate this success, and we should be doubling funding and locking in long term certainty for a program that’s delivering powerful results.”

Minister Melissa Price with MIMAL representatives Dominic Nicholls, John Dalywater, Julia Salt and Lydia Lawrence

Nyul Nyul Ranger Albert Wiggan’s traditional owner group would like to develop an Indigenous Protected Area on their country on the Dampier Peninsula in the Kimberley.

“Our country is the kind of land and sea that people think of when they say how proud they are of Australia –we’ve got crystal blue sea and white sand, we’ve got tropical savannah, we’re Australia’s last safe haven for threatened species – and we want to protect it.”

“That’s why we’re here calling to grow and secure Indigenous Protected Areas, so that mobs like mine around the country can look after our land and sea and our culture. It’s good for our people but it’s good for every Australian too.”

Speakers at the event included Environment Minister Melissa Price, Senator Tim Storer, Senator Malarndirri McCarthy and Senator Rachel Siewert. 

Price said Indigenous Protected Areas are "a fantastic achievement" and that she "looks forward to our future success".

Independent Senator Storer said Indigenous Protected Areas are a "world-leading model that has delivered huge successes for all of Australia," and are "a strong example of a model we should all support."

Senator McCarthy talked about the success of Indigenous rangers saying, "Our rangers do it really tough but they do it with a lot of love and spirit."

Senator Siewert said the Greens will "always support IPAs and Indigenous rangers.

The first Indigenous Protected Area was the Nantawarrina IPA, declared in South Australia in 1998. There are now 75 Indigenous Protected Areas covering an area ten times the size of Tasmania and more are in development.


Fast facts:

  • There are currently 75 declared IPAs in Australia ranging from over 10 million hectares down to 100 hectares.
  • The total area of IPAs in Australia is approximately 68m hectares.
  • In 2018 five new Indigenous Protected Areas began a consultation and planning process. When completed, they will cover an additional area of 13.9m hectares.
  • IPAs exist in all states and territories except the ACT.
  • The first IPA, Nantawarrina in South Australia, was declared in 2018.
  • IPAs are a form of community run protected area, similar to a national park but run by local traditional owners.
  • IPAs are considered a world leading model of Indigenous led conservation partnerships with government. The Canadian government has taken an interest in the model with the first IPA being declared in Canada by First Nations this year.
  • Activities within IPAs typically include fire management for biodiversity and property protection, feral animal control, invasive weed control, tourism management, cultural and sacred site management, research and monitoring, cultural exchange and maintenance.
  • IPAs are typically managed by community-run Indigenous ranger groups under the guidance of local senior traditional owners.