Indigenous groups get stake in parks
Changes to the ownership structure of national parks to allow traditional owners greater influence have been welcomed by a Pilbara Aboriginal corporation.
Environment Minister Albert Jacob said legislative changes passed in Parliament at the end of last year would allow native titleholders to more easily pursue proposals such as tourism developments in conservation estates.
The changes come after a shakeup of the Conservation and Land Management Act, which sets out how WA’s national parks and nature reserves are used and protected.
According to Mr Jacob, joint vesting of conservation areas with indigenous groups already happens in practice through the policies of the Government, particularly in the Kimberley.
But he said the legislative changes, which are due to come into effect in February, would enshrine the rights of traditional owners as partners with the Government. Vesting would be done on a parkby-park basis.
Mr Jacob cited two examples where the arrangements would immediately be put into practice — in the Roebuck Bay Marine Park off Broome and in the South West as part of a settlement with the Noongar people. He said they would create more employment and opportunities for Aboriginal people. “It’s going to be much less about stopping things happening than it is about opening the opportunities for new things to happen that might not have happened before, ” Mr Jacob said.
In the Pilbara, Yindjibarndi Aboriginal Corporation chief executive Michael Woodley welcomed the amendments for giving the corporation more say over the Millstream-Chichester National Park area.
“Any decision that includes partial or full rights to indigenous Australians in regards to land management over national parks is a move in the right direction,” he said.
“For the Yindjibarndi and Ngurrawaana rangers who assist in land management of Yindjibarndi Ngurra, these amendments become very important to how the land must be cared for, as the survival of Yindjibarndi’s genealogical connection to Ngurra rest on the very essence that we have rights to speak for our inheritance.”
A Department of Parks and Wildlife spokesman for the Murujuga Park Council, a partnership of Murujuga Aboriginal Corporation, DPaW and the Department of Aboriginal Affairs, said the amendments were unlikely to change its handling of Murujuga National Park on the Burrup Peninsula because the council has had overall management power from its inception.
A convoy of four-wheel-drive vehicles heads into Murujuga National Park.