Sunday, 24 April 2016
Here at Country Needs People, we focus a lot of attention on Indigenous rangers. There’s a pretty good reason for that. It’s a phenomenally successful program that is having a positive effect on the lives of Indigenous people across the country. But there’s a second side to our campaign, which sometimes feels overlooked, but which is just as important.
Securing the future of Indigenous Protected Areas will mark another critically important milestone in recognising the value of Indigenous land and sea management to Australia.
Increasingly, Indigenous Protected Areas, or IPAs, are being appreciated as an expression of cultural and economic self-determination for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people. IPAs are tangible demonstrations of connection to country, but also provide an important social and economic foundation for improving health, education, employment and cultural identity.
IPAs are recognised as part of the Australian Government’s National Reserve System. To date there are more than 70 IPAs, covering 65,000,000 hectares of Indigenous owned or controlled land and sea areas. IPAs are are voluntarily entered into by Indigenous land owners and as part of any agreement with the Australian Government to manage biodiversity; local Traditional Owners initiate the process, and develop a management plan according to criteria which address both local priorities and national biodiversity priorities.
Typically these two aspects strongly overlap. The program combines extremely well with the Indigenous Rangers initiatives to result in a strategic, locally led natural and cultural management approach combining highly valuable traditional and local knowledge and contemporary science.
The IPA is 'declared' formally at a time the Traditional Owners determine, it then becomes part of Australia's national reserve system the NRS.
Australian Dept. of the Environment, February 2013:
Stretching over 1,114 hectares of the Lower Richmond Valley on the northern coast of New South Wales, Ngunya Jargoon Indigenous Protected Area is a refuge for an extraordinary number of plants and animals.
Part of the traditional homelands of the Bundjalung people of Ballina and Cabbage Tree Island, Ngunya Jargoon itself is of particular significance to the Nyangbul clan group.
This natural oasis lies in a region suffering from fragmented habitat due to historic land clearing. It is the last remaining intact native area on the lower Richmond floodplain and contains heath and woodlands, rainforest and eucalyptus forest.
Bingil Creek, flowing along the eastern side of the protected area, is in near-pristine condition.
Next to the Blackwell range and Tuckean Swamp, Ngunya Jargoon creates a wildlife corridor between the region's protected areas and provides a home to 38 threatened animal species such as the long-nosed potoroos and other important species including swamp wallabies, koalas and red-bellied black snakes.
More than 400 native plant species are found here, many of which the Bundjalung people used for food, medicine and tools. Bundjalung used broad-leafed paperbark for wrapping food prior to cooking, as a bandage and as a coolamon.
Bush fruits such as geebungs, fiver corners and sour currents played a big part in people's diets. Resin from grass trees, a culturally important plant currently in decline, was used to make glue for firesticks.
Archaeological and historic records paint a rich picture of Indigenous occupation in the area which stretches back thousands of years.
Because large parts of Ngunya Jargoon Indigenous Protected Area have never been developed or damaged, a number of significant discoveries including artefacts which point to precontact economies during the Holocene period, have been made.
Cultural sites containing a large number of artefacts such as stone axes and flake tools and numerous middens and scar trees have also been recorded on the IPA.
The Bundjalung people are guided by the values of healthy country, intergenerational learning, sustainable business and enjoyment to shape their country's future. They plan to develop an outdoor learning space, build walking tracks and collecting native seeds for regeneration programs as part of their management plan for Ngunya Jargoon.
For more than 10 years, the Mibinj Green Team, made up of Bundjalung people, have been working on country. They've undertaken extensive rubbish collections, cultural surveys, revegetation and fencing activities.
Dedicated as an Indigenous Protected Area on 12 February 2013, Ngunya Jargoon has become part of Australia's National Reserve System, ensuring it will be maintained for future generations to enjoy.
Ngunya Jargoon Indigenous Protected Area will be managed under the International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN) Category VI, as a protected area which is managed for conservation and the sustainable use of natural resources.
Unfortunately the Ngunya Jargoon IPA, which is home to a total of 38 threatened species, falls along the proposed Woolgoolga to Ballina Pacific Highway upgrade that was approved by the Abbott Government in August 2014.