Indigenous Protected Area

An Indigenous Protected Area is a class of protected area used in Australia formed by agreement with Indigenous Australians, declared by Indigenous Australians, and formally recognised by the Australian Government as being part of its National Reserve System.[1][2]

By agreeing to establish Indigenous Protected Areas, Aboriginal Australians and Torres Strait Islanders have (over the decade 1997-2007) contributed two thirds of all new additions to Australia's National Reserve System.[3]


During the 1990s the Australian Government was working in cooperation with State and Territory Governments to build a National Reserve System aimed at protecting, for future generations, a representative sample of Australia's diverse range of flora, fauna and eco-systems.[3]

As part of this effort, Aboriginal Australian and Torres Strait Islander owners of lands and seas were asked, and many who were interested in re-establishing effective indigenous land management agreed to participate in this endeavour.[3]

At a national conference of Aboriginal Australians and Torres Strait Islanders held in 1997, it was agreed and resolved by the delegates present that a new class of 'indigenous' protected area should be formed as follows:[4]

"An Indigenous Protected Area is [to be] governed by the continuing responsibilities of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples to care for and protect lands and waters for present and future generations."

"Indigenous Protected Areas may include areas of land and waters over which Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders are custodians, and which shall be managed for cultural biodiversity and conservation, permitting customary sustainable resource use and sharing of benefit."

The first trialing of this new environmental partnership aimed at adding the new class of Protected Areas to Australia's National Reserve System, was with the Adnyamathanha people of Nepabunna Aboriginal community volunteering 580 square kilometres of rugged limestone hills, siltstone flats, springs and waterholes between the Flinders Ranges and Gammon Ranges National Parks to be managed as an Indigenous Protected Area.[3][5]

The land selected for the first proposed Indigenous Protected area was held by the South Australian Aboriginal Lands Trust, and, by 26 August 1998, an agreement had been reached to see the Adnyamathanha people of Nepabunna Aboriginal community engaged and some employed in restoring the landscape to its former natural and cultural value, and Australia's first Indigenous Protected Area, the Nantawarrina Indigenous Protected Area was declared.[5]

By 2007 the kind of partnership agreed and started with the Nantawarrina Indigenous Protected Area had grown to include 23 declared Indigenous Protected Areas covering close to 170,000 square kilometres or 23 per cent of the National Reserve System.[3]

In July 2012, The Nature Conservancy, alongside IPA alongside the Central Land Council and government representatives from Australia’s National Reserve System, helped announce the launch of the Southern Tanami Indigenous Protected Area.This Indigenous Protected Area is Australia’s largest land reserve, spanning 10.15 million hectares.[6] It protects important pieces of the Northern Territory’s natural legacy. Included in the Southern Tanami reserve are much of Lake Mackay—Australia’s second-largest lake—and an enormous swath of the Tanami Desert. This IPA links a variety of habitats that includes deserts and savannas, giving plant and animal species the space they need to maneuver around threats like wildfires and climate change.[7]


Aboriginal Australian and Torres Strait Islander land and sea owners (including native title holders) may be encouraged, or themselves apply to the Australian Government to establish an Indigenous Protected Area on their lands/seas. However, an Indigenous Protected Area can only come into existence where:[1]

  • land and/or seas are owned by Aboriginal Australians or Torres Strait Islanders; and
  • significant biodiversity occurs within such Aboriginal/Torres Strait Islander owned lands or seas; and
  • the Aboriginal Australians or Torres Strait Islanders concerned enter into a formal conservation agreement with the Australian Government to manage some of their lands or seas as an IUCN standard "protected area".

IPA Data

IPA data is available online from several sources.

  • Department of Environment IPA Database.[8] AT 3 February 2017, latest data file was 20 September 2016. Data is not well maintained – for example the gazetted area value for several IPAs is zero.
  • Department of Environment Collaborative Australian Protected Area Database (CAPAD).[9] CAPAD data is not updated in real time, but is infrequently updated on a two year schedule. At February 2017, the last available update was in 2014. Data values may be incorrect/out of date. For example some values have not been updated/corrected for 10 years.
  • Department of Prime Minister and Cabinet Indigenous Affairs online IPA and Indigenous Ranger map.[10] Data provided is incomplete, inaccurate, and locations for several smaller IPAs are incorrect on the map.
  • Protected Planet's World Database on Protected Areas (WDPA)[11]

List of Indigenous Protected Areas

New South Wales

The following IPAs have been declared in New South Wales:[12]

  • Brewarrina Ngemba Billabong Indigenous Protected Area
  • Boorabee and The Willows Indigenous Protected Area
  • Gumma Indigenous Protected Area
  • Minyumai Indigenous Protected Area
  • Ngunya Jargoon Indigenous Protected Area
  • Tarriwa Kurrukun Indigenous Protected Area
  • Toogimbie Indigenous Protected Area
  • Wattleridge Indigenous Protected Area
  • Weilmoringle Indigenous Protected Area

Northern Territory

The following IPAs have been declared in the Northern Territory:[13]

  • Angas Downs Indigenous Protected Area
  • Anindilyakwa Indigenous Protected Area
  • Dhimurru Indigenous Protected Area
  • Djelk Indigenous Protected Area
  • Laynhapuy Indigenous Protected Area - 600,000 ha, created in 2006 [14]
  • Marri-Jabin | Stage one of the Thamarrurr Indigenous Protected Area
  • Northern Tanami Indigenous Protected Area
  • Southern Tanami Indigenous Protected Area
  • Warddeken Indigenous Protected Area
  • Yanyuwa Indigenous Protected Area


The following IPAs have been declared in Queensland:[15]

  • Eastern Kuku Yalanji Indigenous Protected Area
  • Guanaba Indigenous Protected Area
  • Kaanju Ngaachi Wenlock and Pascoe Rivers Indigenous Protected Area
  • Mandingalbay Yidinji Indigenous Protected Area
  • Warul Kawa Indigenous Protected Area

South Australia

The following IPAs have been declared in South Australia:[16]


The following IPAs have been declared in Tasmania:[17]

  • Preminghana Indigenous Protected Area
  • Risdon Cove and Putalina Indigenous Protected Areas
  • Mount Chappell and Badger Islands Indigenous Protected Areas


The following IPAs have been declared in Victoria:[18]

Western Australia

The following IPAs have been declared in Western Australia:[19]

  • Balanggarra Indigenous Protected Area
  • Bardi Jawi Indigenous Protected Area
  • Birriliburu Indigenous Protected Area
  • Dambimangari Indigenous Protected Area
  • Kiwirrkurra Indigenous Protected Area
  • Matuwa and Kurrara Kurrara Indigenous Protected Area
  • Ninghan Indigenous Protected Area
  • Ngaanyatjarra Indigenous Protected Area
  • Paruku Indigenous Protected Area
  • Uunguu Indigenous Protected Area
  • Warlu Jilajaa Jumu Indigenous Protected Area

See also


  1. "Fact Sheets: Indigenous Protected Areas". Department of the Environment, Water, Heritage and the Arts. 7 December 2007. Archived from the original on 23 July 2008. Retrieved 22 September 2012.
  2. "Department of the Environment and Energy". Department of the Environment and Energy. Retrieved 16 August 2018.
  3. Australian Government, Department of the Environment and Water Resources (May 2007), Growing up strong: The first 10 years of Indigenous Protected Areas in Australia (PDF), Canberra: Australian Government, ISBN 0-642-55352-1, retrieved 2008-05-08
  4. "Background on Indigenous Protected Areas". Archived from the original on 2008-07-23.
  5. Australia, Parks. "Indigenous Protected Areas: Nantawarrina. Case study". Retrieved 16 August 2018.
  6. "Australia's biggest protected area declared". ABC. 11 July 2012. Retrieved 3 March 2013.
  7. "A Stunning Accomplishment at Southern Tanami". The Nature Conservancy in Australia.
  8. Energy, Department of the Environment and (13 February 2013). "CAPAD: protected area data".
  9. "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 2017-02-02. Retrieved 2017-01-27.CS1 maint: archived copy as title (link)
  10. "Protected Planet".
  11. "Declared Indigenous Protected Areas in New South Wales". Department of the Environment. Retrieved 26 May 2015.
  12. "Declared Indigenous Protected Areas in the Northern Territory". Department of the Environment. Retrieved 26 May 2015.
  13. "Indigenous Land and Sea Management Projects". Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet. Retrieved 27 January 2016.
  14. "Declared Indigenous Protected Areas in Queensland". Department of the Environment. Retrieved 26 May 2015.
  15. "Declared Indigenous Protected Areas in South Australia". Department of the Environment. Retrieved 26 May 2015.
  16. "Declared Indigenous Protected Areas in Tasmania". Department of the Environment. Retrieved 26 May 2015.
  17. "Declared Indigenous Protected Areas in Victoria". Department of the Environment. Retrieved 26 May 2015.
  18. "Declared Indigenous Protected Areas in Western Australia". Department of the Environment. Retrieved 26 May 2015.

Further reading

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