I’ve recently returned from attending a unique Outback event – the dedication of the Matuwa / Kurrara Kurrara Indigenous Protected Area, which involves the transfer of the former Lorna Glen and Earaheedy pastoral leases to the Martu traditional owners.
The new Indigenous Protected area (IPA) extends over 5967 square kilometres to the northeast of Wiluna.
My colleague Michelle and I drove up from Perth, staying overnight in the historic town of Cue. When we arrived in Wiluna we joined a convoy of 4WDs to drive to the old Lorna Glen Station homestead, now located within the Matuwa IPA area.
As the convoy spread out along the gravel roads, the dust settled and we found ourselves at the edge of the Western deserts amongst the red dirt, blue skies and mulga scrub.
On the morning of Friday 3 July, control of the IPA was officially handed over to the Martu traditional owners. Emotions ran high as the ceremony unfolded and the documentation was signed.
One traditional owner, Darren Farmer, spoke of the importance of the IPA in giving the Martu people power to make decisions about the future of their country. He said:
“We don’t want to be consulted anymore. We want to be able to sit down with our partners and say, ‘this is what we want and this is what is important to us’. Country is important to us, country is important to our families, our communities and our society as a whole. We want to take our cultural values and be able to say this is our agenda and this is the way we are going to go…”
Many of the speakers praised the work of the Wiluna Martu Rangers Program, which is one of the many successful Indigenous Ranger Programs across Western Australia.
The Rangers have been doing important work across the entire IPA area, including managing invasive species and building new infrastructure that will provide traditional owners, rangers and visitors access to water, shelter and toilets.
Another highlight of the trip was spotlighting at night within the predator-proof compound. The 1,110 hectare area is home to populations of a number of small native mammal species, including boodies, mala and bilbies.
Some of these animals have been recently reintroduced to the area after local extinction several decades ago.
Thanks to Lindsey Langford and his colleagues at Central Desert Native Title Service for inviting us to be part of this historic event.