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Martu people to manage Warla-Warrarn Martu Indigenous Protected Area

Callan Morse -

The protection of 2.2 million hectares on the Native Title lands of the Martu people has been celebrated with a ceremony near the remote community of Punmu in the Western Desert in Western Australia.

The ceremony, hosted by Jamukurnu Yapalikurnu Aboriginal Corporation (JYAC) recognised the dedication of the Warla-Warrarn Martu Indigenous Protected Area, lands equivalent to around a third of the size of Tasmania.

The protection of this land adds to Australia's national estate and is a boost for critical habitat of threatened species including the Night Parrot and Greater Bilby.

JYAC Chairman Simon Franks said the new Martu Indigenous Protected Area is part of JYAC's first principle: to protect Ngurra.

"Our IPA Plan has the story as to why this is so important," Mr Franks said.

"The Plan starts with Martu children learning from Elders about the significance of the lakes, about protecting them and about going to these places to care for them."

Mr Franks said the determination will also provide employment benefits to Traditional Owner groups.

"JYAC rangers and families will work across the IPA to protect our warla and this will bring new employment opportunities for Martu communities," he said.

"These are the steps towards JYAC's second and third principles: to advance Martu and to generate wealth and opportunity for our people."

Martu are recognised as some of the last First Nations people to make contact with European Australians – and Traditional Owners maintain first-hand experience of traditional life and extensive ecological knowledge of their country.

JYAC chair Simon Frank signing the certificate at the recent ceremony. (Image: supplied, JYAC)

Federal Minister for Indigenous Australians Linda Burney said she was extremely proud of JYAC and Martu people for dedicating the Indigenous Protected Area, to protect the Percival Lakes and Lake Waukarlycarly systems and their surrounding lands.

"The Martu have a strong tradition and culture in protecting the lakes systems and through their deep traditional knowledge of their ngurra," Ms Burney said.

"The program will link this deep traditional knowledge and understanding to achieve the protection of Australia's unique biodiversity and culture for the benefit of all Australians and future generations to come.

"The IPA program supports the Martu people to realise their vision of managing their own traditional lands, harnessing opportunities for local Martu people to work on Country."

The Indigenous Protected Areas Program sees more than 92 million hectares of land and sea across Australia, an area larger than New South Wales, managed by First Nations people to improve biodiversity conservation.

Federal Minister for the Environment and Water, Tanya Plibersek said the new Indigenous Protected Area is one of the federal government's ten new IPA's it has committed to establish by decade's end.

"We've added a further 2.2 million hectares of land to our national estate, helping protect our natural landscapes and native plants and animals for our kids and grandkids," Ms Plibersek said.

"Protecting and actively managing this area, through right-way fire management, threatened species conservation and weed and pest animal control, plays an essential role in protecting the many species, like the Greater Bilby, that call it home."

Following the addition, Indigenous Protected Areas now make up more than 11 per cent of Australia's landmass and more than 50 per cent of Australia's national estate.

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