More than 100 Ngiyampaa Wangaaypuwan people have celebrated their long-held dream of having ngurrampaa (country) back in their management in a dedication ceremony for the Mawonga Indigenous Protected Area (IPA) in central-western New South Wales.
The IPA means that Ngiyampaa Wangaaypuwan people will be able to continue the role of their ancestors by caring for and healing country at the 22,000-hectare Mawonga Station IPA, 100km north of Hillston, NSW.
There are numerous cultural places, small caves, rock shelters and art sites on Mawonga, as well as many significant plants and animals such as the threatened Yungkay (Malleefowl) and woodland birds like the Grey-Crowned Babbler and Hooded Robin.
Mawonga IPA adjoins both the Yathong and Nombinnie nature reserves and the three properties combined form one of the largest continuous stands of protected Mallee forest in NSW.
Ongoing management activities in caring for Mawonga through the IPA program include cultural camps, feral animal control, erosion management, cultural burning, cultural site protection and ecological monitoring.
Mawonga Station IPA Manager Lawrence Clark said managing country as an IPA has been a goal of Ngiyampaa Wangaaypuwan people for many years.
“Having your country back to care for it’s like caring for family. If country is looking sick you look after it, heal it like you do when caring for sick family. Having Mawonga, our country for community as a place to be for our connection and well-being is so important. It’s protecting our past and our future.”
“I’ve seen big changes since 2011 in country, there used to be very little ground cover here, many feral animals and invasive weeds. Now there is a lot less ferals and more native species, healthier woodlands and more birds.”
In 2009, their representative body Winangakirri Aboriginal Corporation acquired Mawonga after the federal government and the Indigenous Land and Sea Corporation provided funds to buy the property. A handback ceremony was held in 2015 and a management plan was developed, allowing Mawonga to be eligible to apply for and eventually become an IPA.
Mawonga IPA Coordinator Stacey O’Hara said being declared an IPA is the culmination of many years of hard work by members of Winangakirri Aboriginal Corporation.
"There have been a lot of setbacks and disappointment over the years but to finally see all our efforts yield results is an indescribable feeling of accomplishment and one that we should all be so proud of.
"The support from Bush Heritage Australia, Biodiversity Conservation Trust and Western Local Land Services over the years has been amazing and truly appreciated by our members. We look forward to many years of managing our own Country for current and future generations of Ngiyampaa Wangaaypuwan people.”
Bush Heritage has been working in partnership with Ngiyampaa Wangaaypuwan people to realise their vision for country for more than a decade. We are proud to have helped facilitate the 2011 acquisition of Mawonga and to have worked with the community in the development of the Mawonga IPA Management plan. We look forward to continuing to support management and ecological monitoring activities on Mawonga.
The dedication is a historic day for Ngiyampaa Wangaaypuwan Traditional Owners long in the making. It’s been the commitment and resilience of Ngiyampaa people through many challenges that sees country back in their management.
Mawonga is thriving under the care of Ngiyampaa Wangaaypuwan people. Seeing the happiness in families back on country, having a safe space to practice and share culture, to see cultural places, species and resources looked after by community is what working together can make happen.