A map showing the location of the Arafura Swamp in the Northern Territory

Established: 2007
Area: 1.4 million hectares / 14,000 km²
Location: 230 km east of Darwin, 30km west of Jabiru

The Arnhem Plateau is a region of spectacular stone and gorge country north and east of Kakadu National Park. The area is richly biodiverse, having been geologically stable for millions of years. It has numerous, diverse refuges that protect plants and animals from fires and climate shifts.

Mary Kolkiwarra, Warddeken Professor, collects ankodjbang (water peanut) from a freshwater stream. © David Hancock
Mary Kolkiwarra, Warddeken Professor, collects ankodjbang (water peanut) from a freshwater stream. © David Hancock
The plateau has been inhabited for tens of thousands of years, and Traditional Owners represent one of the oldest ongoing civilisations on earth. Thousands of spectacular rock art galleries, occupation shelters and other sites of archaeological significance represent a cultural and environmental record stretching back over millennia. These places continue to play an important cultural role.

In 2008 the Bininj Kunwok clans of western Arnhem Land came together to found Warddeken Land Management Limited. Based at the Kabulwarnamyo outstation community, Warddeken is bringing people back onto their traditional lands to manage the country for conservation and to preserve and revitalise their traditional culture.

Our partnership with Warddeken

Victor Garlngarr and Barbara Gurwalwal at a rock art gallery at Ngalkombarli, one of thousands of art sites within the Warddeken IPA. © David Hancock.
Victor Garlngarr and Barbara Gurwalwal at a rock art gallery at Ngalkombarli, one of thousands of art sites within the Warddeken IPA. © David Hancock.
Bush Heritage has worked in partnership with Warddeken Land Management since 2007 (when they were known as as the Manwurrk Rangers) to support the development and implementation of a plan of management for the Warddeken Indigenous Protected Area (IPA). The plan helps ensure the sustainable management of the region for conservation, and the protection of important cultural sites under the direction of the Nawardekken Traditional Owners.

The development of the Warddeken plan of management was a vital step toward declaring the Warddeken IPA in September 2009. Along with the neighbouring Djelk IPA, the declaration encompasses more than two million hectares of land – an area larger than the neighbouring Kakadu National Park.

Warddeken Ranger Delvina Guymala and colleagues prepare to implement a back-burn. Photo Peter Cooke.
Warddeken Ranger Delvina Guymala and colleagues prepare to implement a back-burn. Photo Peter Cooke.
Indigenous Protected Area status provides a way for Warddeken to protect their traditional country and conserve high-value conservation lands as part of the Australian National Reserve System. It also attracts ongoing funding for land management employment opportunities, which deliver tangible improvements in the health and well being of Indigenous communities.

We've supported the development of governance mechanisms for managing the Warddeken IPA, as well as the establishment of a legal framework and endowment fund so supporters can help finance conservation work.

Bush Heritage continues to play a key role supporting the Plan of Management's implementation by helping to fund management staff and co-ordinate on-ground conservation work.

What we're helping protect

The Arnhem Plateau is recognised as a landscape of international biodiversity significance. The region supports 166 species of plants and 20 species of vertebrate animals found nowhere else. Our actions help to protect:

Oenpelli Python. Photo David Hancock.
Oenpelli Python. Photo David Hancock.
Animals: Yirlinkirrkkirr (White-throated grasswren), Djabbo (Northern Quoll), Yok (Northern Brown Bandicoot), Black wallaroo, Kordberr (Arnhem Land Rock-rat), Nawaran (Oenpelli Python), Golden-backed Tree Rat, Alyurr (Leichardt's Grasshopper), Delicate Mouse, Saltwater and freshwater crocodiles, Benok (bustard).

Plants: Anbinik / Allosyncarpia ternata, Anlarrk / Callitris intratropica, Boronia quadrilata, Boronia viridiflora

Vegetation communities: Anbinik rainforest, Arnhem Plateau shrubland complex, Sandstone heathlands, Savannah, Paperbark swamp, Headwater wetlands.

Our early work on this partnership was generously supported through the David Thomas Challenge, The Nature Conservancy and an anonymous donor.