Sunday, March 24th, 2013

Eighty Mile Beach: Indigenous rangers key to marine park

Karajarri Rangers have played a key role in setting up the new Eighty Mile Beach marine park.

Turtle tracks

Turtle tracks

They have also been actively involved in the DEC’s marine turtle monitoring program.

The government is now negotiating with the group to contract out part of the new park’s management.


The Karajarri, Nyangumarta and Ngarla people have played key roles in planning the new Eighty Mile Beach marine park with the WA Department of Environment and Conservation (DEC).

Nyangumarta traditional owner Nyapuru Rose said site visits to important cultural areas allowed her people to teach DEC about their connection with coastal and sea country.

“The Nyangumarta people have an intricate knowledge of their country and retain a strong connection through sacred sites and ceremonial activities,” she said.

A ministerial statement says the marine park would be jointly managed between DEC and Karajarri, Nyangumarta and Ngarla Traditional Owners.

It is to include special “cultural heritage” zones acknowledging the existence of cultural values in the area.

Traditional owner Thomas King, who is director of the Karajarri Prescribed Body Corporate, welcomed the decision.

“It means we are able to participate and engage with the department on equal terms,” he said.

“It also allows traditional owners to have legislative backing in relation to protection of natural marine resources.

“That’s been a common cry amongst traditional owners, about over-fishing and unsustainable use of marine resources.”

He said the terms of the marine park, gazetted late last year, would not prevent traditional owners carrying out their accustomed activities, which have never included commercial fishing.

“A traditional owner would be subject to the same rules and laws in regards to any commercial fishing,” Mr King said.

He said the DEC had indicated an interest in using Karajarri Rangers to help manage the park.

“They didn’t specifically make any mention of jobs as such, they mentioned fee-for-service contract … we can utilise it to perhaps create a position,” he said.

DEC’s marine science program leader Chris Simpson said Indigenous participation was a key objective of his department’s strategy for the Kimberley.

“Indigenous engagement and the employment of Indigenous rangers is a priority,” Dr Simpson said.

“There are Indigenous rangers working on the Eighty Mile Beach Marine Park as we speak.”

Mr King said Karajarri rangers had been involved with DEC in exercises such as turtle nest monitoring for several years.

“It’s normally during the wet season around December, January, February that that occurs, the breeding and hatching period,” he said.

He said the details of how the new marine park is to be run are yet to be settled.

“The next step will be nutting out details of that management agreement … I’ll be looking forward to it,” he said.

An edited version of this story first appeared in The Koori Mail on Wednesday 27 February 2013.

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