This year the theme for NAIDOC Week is ‘Heal Country!’. Healing Country means embracing First Nations’ cultural knowledge and understanding. It is a call for all of us to restore and protect Australia’s precious lands, waters, wildlife, sacred sites and cultural heritage.
Australian Wildlife Conservancy (AWC) recognises the importance of mutual exchange of Indigenous knowledge and ecological understanding, and traditional and modern practices for conservation. We celebrate our Indigenous partners and partnerships. Together, we are working to Heal Country.
Healing Country in the Kimberley
Indigenous managed lands and protected areas are vital for the conservation of Australia’s unique biodiversity. In Western Australia’s remote Kimberley, Dambimangari Aboriginal Corporation (DAC), Wilinggin Aboriginal Corporation (WAC) and the Yulmbu Community are working with AWC to enhance conservation science and land management across more than 2.8 million hectares (6.9 million acres).
DAC and AWC are developing a better understanding of the distribution of species on Dambimangari Country and working together to assess risks to threatened fauna and their habitats. Since the partnership commenced in 2018, we have confirmed 195 species, including four threatened mammal species and two threatened bird species, as well as several culturally important species.
Together, we have completed feral herbivore and feral cat surveys in targeted lowland areas to inform our threat management programs. Highlighting the conservation importance of the region, these introduced species are found at very few sites.
Established in 2019 the WAC-AWC partnership delivers management across 1.73 million hectares of the Wilinggin Indigenous Protected Area (IPA) in the north-west Kimberley:
Wilinggin Country dominates the central Kimberley plateau – a magnificent landscape that has been cared for by the Ngarinyin people for tens of thousands of years. WAC works collaboratively with AWC to deliver science and land management programs across the 1.73-million-hectare (4.27-million-acre) partnership area, consistent with the Wilinggin Healthy Country Plan.
In turn, AWC staff learn traditional knowledge from Wunggurr Rangers and Ngarinyin Traditional Owners to help AWC better understand the Country and its People and better contribute to the partnership.
Healing Country in Central Australia
Newhaven Wildlife Sanctuary sits near the junction of three diverse bioregions in the arid centre of Australia. The rugged ranges, salt lakes and sand plains are the traditional lands of the Ngalia-Warlpiri and Luritja people. Newhaven is the site of the first, historic native title consent determination between Traditional Owners and a non-government conservation organisation, which took place in 2011.
Here, too, members of the local Indigenous community are actively involved in a nationally significant project to restore a suite of threatened and culturally significant mammal species to a massive (9,450 ha/23,351 ac) feral predator-free area.
Warlpiri Rangers are also employed to assist in the delivery of fire management, feral animal control and biological surveys across this vast (262,000 ha/647,416 ac) property.
AWC has worked in association with Ngalia-Warlpiri and Luritja Traditional Owners, Warlpiri Rangers and the Central Land Council at Newhaven for more than a decade. These strong partnerships are built on a shared set of values, including caring for land and wildlife, supporting the community and respect for traditional knowledge and practices.
Healing Country in the Wet Tropics
The Northern Bettong is one of Australia’s most endangered mammals and only persists in two populations in Queensland’s Wet Tropics, across Djabugay, Buluwai and Tableland Yidinji Country in the Lamb Range and on Western Yalanji Country on the Carbine Tablelands in Mt Lewis National Park.
Western Yalanji Aboriginal Corporation, AWC and Queensland Parks and Wildlife Service (QPWS) are collaborating to improve conservation management of the small population of around 70 animals that survive across the Carbine Tablelands.
AWC is a long-standing member of the Northern Bettong Recovery Team, working with Traditional Owners and Rangers from Wadjanbarra Tableland Yidinji Aboriginal Corporation, Djabugay Aboriginal Corporation, Buluwai Indigenous Corporation, Western Yalanji Aboriginal Corporation, Gugu Badhun Aboriginal Corporation and Girringun Aboriginal Corporation, as well as Qld Department of Environment and Science and QPWS representatives, researchers, and local landholders.
Together, we have developed a bold plan to re-establish a population of the Northern Bettong at AWC’s Mount Zero-Taravale Wildlife Sanctuary, north-west of Townsville, where the species was once present.
Indigenous partnerships are vital to the future of conservation
AWC is committed to developing strong, mutually beneficial and respectful relationships with Traditional Owners and rangers so that together we can effectively heal and protect native land, waters, wildlife and Indigenous cultural values across all our sanctuaries and partnership areas.
Knowledge sharing and collaboration is delivering positive outcomes for wildlife and helping to build Traditional Owner and ranger capacity.