Indigenous Protected Areas

What are IPAs?


What is an Indigenous Protected Area?

An Indigenous Protected Area (IPA) is an area of land or sea that is cared for by Indigenous owners. Indigenous owners enter a voluntary agreement with the Commonwealth Government to protect biodiversity—the animals, plants and other species that call the IPA home—and to conserve the area’s cultural resources, like sacred sites and rock art.

Since they started in 1990, IPAs have become a key part of Australia's National Reserve System: the network of protected areas—including National Parks—that stretch across the continent. Do you know that, in 2016, IPAs accounted for more than 40 per cent of the total area of our National Reserve System?! 

The day-to-day management of an IPA is done in line with international standards for protected areas through the IUCN. 


What happens on an Indigenous Protected Area?

Clearing weeds, trapping feral animals, protecting rock art, working with researchers, managing burning regimes to avoid wildfires, welcoming visitors…it’s all in a day’s work for an Indigenous ranger. Across Australia, there are more than 2000 Indigenous ranger positions funded through the Working on Country program and through IPAs.  

Each Indigenous community who has entered into an IPA agreement decides IPA community decides upon the focus of the work: which cultural resources they will protect, which environmental issues they will target.

In tackling these issues, Indigenous owners are often supported by scientists and other land managers. In this way, IPAs bring together traditional Indigenous knowledge and modern science for the most effective land and sea management. We believe in the work done on IPA land; read the case for IPAs here.


Where are Indigenous Protected Areas?

From the tip of Queensland to east coast of Tasmania, there are IPAs all around Australia.

In 1998 the first IPA was declared at Nantawarrina in South Australia. Now there are 74 dedicated IPAs, covering more than 65 million hectares. Most IPAs occur on land, but some also extend into the sea. 

What is the name of the IPA closest to your home town or city? Which Indigenous group is working there? The map below shows the number and location of IPAs in Australia.


Case Studies

Read about three IPAs in Australia, where people protect princess parrots, bilbies and our precious sea life.