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A remote and sacred water site on Karajarri Country, Western Australia.       By Benjamin Broadwith for Karajarri Traditional Lands Association.
A remote and sacred water site on Karajarri Country, Western Australia. By Benjamin Broadwith for Karajarri Traditional Lands Association.





2.1 million ha


190km south of Broome

Bush Heritage works in partnership with Karajarri Land & Sea Management to support Karajarri people as they heal and protect their ancestral lands.

“Palanapayana Tukjana Ngurra/Everybody looking after Country properly.”

Karajarri Country is located in north-west Australia and spans more than 3 million hectares from the Indian Ocean to the Great Sandy Desert.

Brilliant blue waters dotted with Kunturung/mangroves lap onto sandy white Wintirri/beaches covered in shells. This is what Karajarri people call Jurarr/coastal country. As you go eastwards this turns to Pirra/inland country where sparse vegetation covers the Niyamarri/red dunes of the Great Sandy Desert.

Jurrar includes Wintirri/beaches, tidal creeks, bays, Parnany/reefs and Wurrja/sea-grass beds and provides vital habitat for numerous marine species, such as the Wilarr/Flatback Turtles that lay their eggs on Malumpurr  /Eighty Mile Beach, and the Nanarru/Dugongs and Ngararr /Snubfin Dolphins that swim in the warm waters just off the coast.

The red desert dunes of Karajarri Country, Western Australia. By Benjamin Broadwith for Karajarri Traditional Lands Association

Pirra contains rich wetlands that team with life. It’s home to beautiful threatened species such as the Grey Falcon and Princess Parrot, as well as rare mammals such as the Jitarraru/Greater Bilby and the mysterious Pujarrpujarr/Marsupial Mole. 

Karajarri Country is also home to two internationally significant pajalpi/wetlands that provide habitat for many endangered species. Together, we’re working to protect this stunning part of the world for future generations. 

Traditional owners

In 2002 and 2004 Karajarri people secured Native Title for most of their traditional lands and Karajarri Traditional Lands Association (KTLA) was established. 

In 2014, Karajarri declared an Indigenous Protected Area over much of their country, and the Karajarri Healthy Country Plan was born.

Karajarri Elder Mr J ‘Tarrika’ Watson caring for Country. By Benjamin Broadwith for Karajarri Traditional Lands Association

The Karajarri Rangers

The Karajarri Land & Sea Management team includes Men and Women Ranger Teams that care for Karajarri Land and Sea Country and is responsible for implementing the Karajarri Healthy Country Plan 2013 – 2023.   

Based in Broome and operating out of the Bidyadanga community, the Karajarri Land & Sea Management program is hugely diverse. Their work includes biodiversity monitoring and research, fostering Indigenous-led tourism opportunities and fire, weed and feral animal management. 

In 2018, when the partnership officially launched, its focus was to support more women - particularly young women - to work on Country. 

For young women in the Karajarri community, a ranger job provides the chance to learn on Country from senior women who hold important knowledge of Country and cultural practices, especially around bush foods, bush medicines, fishing and hunting.

Karajarri Elders and Rangers enjoy lunch during an on-Country trip to a remote sacred site. By Benjamin Broadwith for Karajarri Traditional Lands Association

Culture and traditional knowledge

In Karajarri culture, all forms of life are connected to Pukarrikarrajangka/the Dreamtime. This includes the landscape, people, language and customs.

Karajarri Pukarrikarra/Dreaming outlines the responsibility Karajarri people have to look after Country, and to ensure traditions are passed on to future generations.

This deep spiritual, physical and emotional connection to Country is known as Palanapayana Tukjana Ngurra/everybody looking after Country properly.

Karajarri people regularly use and maintain significant cultural sites, which include Kurrjungu/fish traps, Talu/increase ceremony sites and ngapa kunangkul/living waters where the pulany/sacred water reside.

Often these places are also steeped in ecological significance such as the remote freshwater spring system, Kurriji pa Yajula/Dragon Tree Soak. These places contain fossils, extensive middens, burial sites, rock art and support unique ecosystems. Historical Colonial sites are also dotted throughout Karajarri Country including the La Grange mission, pearling camps and the old ration depot.

Elders enjoy a campfire during a remote on-Country trip to sacred water sites deep in the desert, Karajarri Country, Western Australia. By Benjamin Broadwith for Karajarri Traditional Lands Association

Where to from here?

As part of our partnership, Bush Heritage provides financial and technical in-kind support to Karajarri Land & Sea Management. This support is anticipated to continue across a range of Healthy Country projects, and to assist the roll out of the next Karajarri Healthy Country Plan 2023-2033.

“This type of long-term partnership that the Karajarri Rangers and Bush Heritage have is integral to the meaningful growth of Karajarri people’s capacity to look after Country on their terms. This is a unique approach, one that enables a huge amount of cross-cultural learning and innovation, in an industry that has historically been dominated by Western science and management practices. Traditional Owners have and will continue to contribute a tremendous amount towards global efforts to keep ecosystems healthy for future generations.”
Jesse Ala’i – Karajarri Land and Sea Manager

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