Kimberley Traditional Owners are seeking joint management of the State Government’s proposed Wilderness parks to ensure Aboriginal culture and heritage is respected and protected.
WA Premier Colin Barnett announced the formation of the Kimberley Wilderness Park in October. The park comprises 3.5 million hectares of protected land and sea areas at Camden Sound, the north Kimberley, Roebuck Bay and 80 Mile Beach.
“The north-west Kimberley is one of the most pristine areas remaining in the world and the Government is committed to protecting the natural character of the Kimberley wilderness for future generations,’’ he said.
Traditional Owners support the establishment of the protected areas, in particular Camden Sound, but want to have joint management of the areas, rather than have a Government regime imposed upon them and the way they look after country.
Camden Sound is the largest Humpback Whale calving ground in the Southern Hemisphere and is of important significance to Aboriginal people. The area is also covered by the Dambimangari native title claim which is in its final stages and has been waiting for approval from the State Government for more than a year.
Senior Dambimangari Traditional Owner Donny Woolagoodja said the group was working towards establishing Australia’s first Indigenous Marine Protected Area and was disappointed in the State Government for failing to consult with the Dambimangari people on its Science and Conservation Strategy,’’ he said.
“We want to lead the way in marine conservation; we want to see the Government back us up and support our aspirations for managing our country.
“We have been working hard to look after our country through establishing an Indigenous Protected Area, ranger programs and cultural tourism ventures and we don’t want the Government to come in and take those opportunities away from us by putting in a marine park that is managed by the Government and not in partnership with our people.’’
Indigenous management of Camden Sound Marine Park, Donny said, would enable Traditional Owners to monitor tourism and commercial activities in the remote North Kimberley coast while providing the potential in which to create an economic base for Aboriginal people to enter the tourism industry
“Through our Law we have cultural responsibilities to look after people when they visit our country. We are concerned about unmanaged access by tour operators and private boaters, and the protection of marine resources,’’ he said.
“These are big issues that have been worrying us for a long time, creating an Indigenous Marine Protected Area is an opportunity for us to be empowered to manage our concerns”.
The Kimberley Land Council and Dambimangari Traditional Owners have met with the State Government about joint management opportunities for the Camden Sound Marine Park and are awaiting a response.
“We are extremely disappointed in the State Government’s attitude towards consultation with Aboriginal people. But this will not stop us from protecting our rights and our country,’’ Mr Woolagoodja said.