The Kaanju Ngaachi Indigenous Protected Area

Sunday 21 September, 2008

David Claudie and Sarah Eccles celebrate the partnership between Bush Heritage and the Kaanju people of Cape York.

On 4 June 2008 a ceremony was held in the Kaanju Ngaachi (Kaanju homelands) in central Cape York Peninsula involving community members, neighbours and partners.

Sarah Eccles (right), David Claudie and partners at the launch of the Kaanju Ngaachi IPA on Kaanju homelands. Photo Matt Appleby.

Sarah Eccles (right), David Claudie and partners at the launch of the Kaanju Ngaachi IPA on Kaanju homelands. Photo Matt Appleby.

It was a celebration of the hard and tireless work of the Kaanju people in looking after their country, which has culminated in the declaration of Stage One of the Kaanju Homelands Indigenous Protected Area (IPA).

‘The deterioration of the land is felt by Pianamu (Rainbow Serpent) and under Kaanju law if proper land management is not carried out, Pianamu will not allow the land to be sustainable,’ explains David Claudie, a Kaanju Traditional Owner and chairman of the local Chuulangun Aboriginal Corporation.

Bush Heritage congratulates the Kaanju people on their declaration of Cape York’s first IPA. The Kaanju Homelands IPA is located approximately 700km north of Cairns. It covers 197 500 hectares and is centred on the Wenlock and Pascoe Rivers.

The Kaanju homelands feature open savannah, riverine environments with extensive lagoon systems, and upland tropical and subtropical rainforests. There are also pockets of open bushland, sand ridge country and areas that feature vine thickets and sinkholes.

Lagoon systems in the IPA are rich habitats for wildlife. Photo Matt Appleby.

Lagoon systems in the IPA are rich habitats for wildlife. Photo Matt Appleby.

The homelands are rich in biodiversity and provide a habitat for a number of rare and endangered fauna species, including the north-eastern tree kangaroo, the cassowary (kutani) and the palm cockatoo (kila). The Kaanju people became greatly concerned about the deterioration of their homelands through weed and feral-animal infestations and a lack of proper fire management.

Their cultural sites were also being desecrated due to prolific and unregulated public access. As a result of these concerns, the Kaanju Traditional Owners identified a number of options for the protection and development of their land, people and culture, one of which was to establish an IPA on their homelands.

In 2005 the Kaanju people developed the Chuulangan Aboriginal Corporation Wenlock and Pascoe Rivers Kaanju Homelands IPA management plan to articulate their aspirations and how they would realise them.

David Claudie approached Bush Heritage and requested assistance to implement the plan. Since then, the Kaanju people (through the Chuulangun Aboriginal Corporation) and Bush Heritage (as part of its Conservation on Country program) have been working in partnership to put the plan into action.

Thanks to the kind support of the Andyinc Foundation and The Nature Conservancy, Bush Heritage has been able to provide assistance to David in his role as IPA coordinator and to the Kaanju and other local Indigenous people in undertaking high-priority land-management activities.

Rangers have surveyed weeds, removed olive hymenachne infestations from sensitive lagoon systems and put monitoring systems in place to prevent further outbreaks of this invasive plant. They have established firebreaks and performed back-burning, conducted patrols to limit prohibited access, and built and maintained designated camping grounds to prevent further erosion of river areas and damage to Kaanju cultural sites.

As well as ensuring the conservation of significant habitats for threatened species, the Kaanju Homelands IPA provides meaningful local employment and training opportunities and allows the Kaanju people to retain their cultural responsibility for looking after their country.

For more information on the Kaanju Homelands IPA, see www.kaanjungaachi.com.au
For an explanation of Indigenous Protected Areas, see http://www.environment.gov.au/land/indigenous-protected-areas

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