On the far north-west coast of the Kimberley are the lands and waters of the Wunambal Gaambera people. This beautiful and remote biodiversity hotspot covers a massive 2.5 million hectares of white sandy beaches, rocky escarpments and rugged gorges, including iconic locations such as Punamii-Uunpuu (Mitchell Falls).
Dugongs and Turtles swim the warm waters off the coast, while Humpback Whales nurse their calves around the offshore islands.
The wetlands, woodlands and savannahs provide vital habitat for vulnerable birds, animals and aquatic creatures such as Longneck Turtle (wulumara), Black Grass Wren, Scaly Tail Possum (yilangal) and Monjon – the world's smallest rock wallaby.
The Wunambal Gaambera people have lived and hunted here for thousands of years and call it Uunguu – their living home. Everything in Uunguu is looked after properly under traditional Wanjina and Wunggurr Law.
In this stunning and remarkably healthy landscape there have been no mammal extinctions. Our actions together will help ensure this legacy continues.
Indigenous Protected Area declared
In May 2011, after some 20 years of struggle, the Wunambal Gaambera Aboriginal Corporation finally secured native title over their country. At the same time they declared the first stage of the Uunguu Indigenous Protected Area (IPA), covering 343,700 hectares, and entered into a 10-year partnership with us.
This was the first long-term agreement in Australia between traditional landowners and a non-government conservation organisation.
It was the culmination of many years' work by the Wunambal Gaambera people, and five years of collaboration with us, combining traditional knowledge and western science together.
The Healthy Country Plan
The Healthy Country Plan was developed through a series of workshops and field trips facilitated by Bush Heritage and the Wunambal Gaambera Aboriginal Corporation. Together, participants mapped out a vision for their Uunguu that would help identify priorities for local rangers.
These included managing fire, controlling weeds and feral animals, managing visitors, conserving cultural heritage and monitoring the health of plants and animals.
In 2015 the second stage of the IPA was declared, bringing the total area to 759,806 hectares. It was also the midpoint for the Healthy Country Plan, triggering a comprehensive review of progress. An expert Uunguu Monitoring and Evaluation Committee – an innovative, intercultural and interdisciplinary body – was formed.
Results were positive and also provided feedback for flexible, adaptations to the plan, which has been consistently described by external parties as ‘the gold standard’ for IPA management planning (particularly the high level of community engagement).
Wunambal Gaambera's vision for the next ten years is for their people to secure sustainable livelihoods on and from their Country.
What we're helping to protect
Over 1,600 plant species occur in this region of the Kimberley and over 100 of these aren't found anywhere else in Australia. Our actions help protect:
Animals: Wijingarri / Northern Quoll (endangered), Balguja / Dugong (high cultural value), Flatback Turtle (endangered, high cultural value), Black Grass Wren, Yilangal / Scaly Tail Possum, Monjon – the world's smallest rock wallaby, Golden-backed Tree Rat, Rough-scaled Python
Plants: Guru (cypress pine), Dangana / Livistona Palm (endemic), Gungurru / Cycad (endemic), Gulay / Green Plum, Barrurru / Stringybark.
Vegetation communities: Darrngala / mangroves,Wulo / rainforest, Cyprus pine grove, Paperbark swamp, Livistona palm woodland, Savanna.