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Reason to Celebrate: 12.25 M Acres Declared Protected Area for Aboriginal People

Anangu leaders in Australia just declared 12.25 million acres of Aboriginal freehold land an Indigenous Protected Area.
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Anangu leaders in Australia just declared 12.25 million acres of Aboriginal freehold land an Indigenous Protected Area (IPA), after the Australian Government signed the IPA agreement with the Anangu people giving the community additional resources to protect sacred sites, native plants and animals.

At the important site known as Tjitjingati, on October 1, more than 250 Anangu and guests announced the designation of the Katiti Peterman IPA which involves Aboriginal land surrounding the Uluru Kata Tjuta National Park.

According to the Central Land Council (CLC), an Aboriginal statutory authority that promotes Aboriginal rights, leaders held a traditional inma ceremony that celebrated the IPA on the day of the announcement and honored “the children that got taken away” (a reference to the many thousands of Aboriginal children forcibly taken from their homes from the late 1800s to the 1970s).

The new IPA extends over an area larger than Switzerland and is one of the largest protected areas in Australia; the network of 71 IPAs covers more than 159 million acres throughout the country according to Australia’s Department of the Environment. Aboriginal elders in these areas work with indigenous rangers to protect natural and cultural resources.

CLC Director Davis Ross noted that this newest IPA has value for its potential as a cultural tourism site, too.

Courtesy Central Land Council

The Katiti Peterman IPA which involves Aboriginal land surrounding the Uluru Kata Tjuta National Park.

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“What makes this IPA stand out is its tourism potential,” Ross said.

“There’s an airport where large numbers of national and international visitors arrive every week, the Outback Way goes right through it and the landscapes are very dramatic, with spectacular mountain ranges, vast salt lakes and large sand dunes. It all adds up to huge scope for tourism development,” Ross noted.

“Already a handful of families are pursuing their own cultural tourism ideas but the IPA offers a great opportunity to expand if that’s what people want,” he added.

This new status will also help Aboriginal people teach their children more about traditional culture, foods and places, said Indigenous Ranger Ruby James. James has already been teaching the children skills such as tracking, fauna surveys and water monitoring.

“We really hope we can extend the program so we can do more trips on country and learn more about the bush tucker and all the traditional foods and important places,” James stated.

“By taking them out on country they see and learn about places. It will allow them to protect their country themselves in time. This is their schooling, this is the education we need our children to have and this is the way we do it,” she said.

According to a CLC press statement, the agreement with the Commonwealth was five years in the making the new IPA is the fourth largest protected area on the Australian mainland.