Published: 15 Nov 2023
Australia's Indigenous Protected Area (IPA) network is a world-leading example of Indigenous conservation leadership and collaboration. It demonstrates what is possible when government and other stakeholders commit to genuine cooperation with Traditional Owners. It is vital that we understand and support this going forward.
On Wednesday 15th November at Parliament House, a new publication will be launched to mark 25 years of Indigenous Protected Areas in Australia.
In 2023 it is fitting to look back on 25 years of challenges and achievement – the legacy of hard work and positive results by Traditional Owners and their collaborators – and to commit to build on this as we look to the challenges ahead.
The IPA estate is diverse and enormous. There are now 84 operational IPAs around Australia covering over 87 million hectares on land and 6 million hectares on sea and growing. The IPA estate is 13 times the size of Tasmania, larger than the U.S. states of Texas or California and more than the area of France and Germany combined. It covers tropical, desert, and temperate ecosystems of incredible variety.
IPAs are a vital part of protecting, managing and sustaining Australia’s diverse ecosystems and the rich cultural landscapes and seascapes they support. Grounded in Indigenous designed governance structures, IPAs recognise local, cultural, and historical contexts, and are compatible with the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) criteria. IPAs generate jobs through the work of Indigenous Rangers, thus supporting overall wellbeing in their local communities.
IPAs also help to sustain the intricate cultural values imbued in land and sea arising from millennia of use and management by Traditional Owners.
The vastness, complexity, richness, and variety of biocultural systems contained within IPAs places a huge responsibility on all Australians, especially to ensure that the contribution of Traditional Owners through IPAs is properly understood, resourced, and supported into the future.
A heating climate, changing patterns of fire in the landscape; ecosystem impacts from invasive species; and a history of poor management decisions leading to degradation of wildlife and habitat create ongoing challenges for IPA managers and their host organisations. IPAs provide a framework where both Indigenous and non-Indigenous knowledge systems can combine to tackle these increasingly complex modern pressures on our environment.
Each IPA management plan represents years of consultations by Traditional Owner-led organisations, and much planning, effort, and commitment to deliver the ongoing day-to-day management required to sustain the values within.
This report aims to provide a partial glimpse of the value IPAs deliver for every Australian and a reminder of the benefit to us all if we ensure they continue to ensure they thrive and grow.