• St George Basin Kimberley
    St George Basin, Kimberley Photo: Lesley Gibson/DBCA

The Kimberley Region is a remote and complex landscape representing one sixth of Western Australia’s land mass or 422,000 square kilometres, equivalent to twice the size of Victoria. About five per cent of the region is national park or conservation reserves which collectively attract around 300,000 visitors each year, 25 per cent is unallocated Crown land and 12 per cent is in Aboriginal reserves.

The Kimberley is renowned for its natural beauty and cultural significance. It is a region filled with spectacular landscapes and mystique, containing unique terrestrial and marine ecosystems, set in wild, rugged and remote landscapes. Awareness of its economic, cultural and biological values is rapidly increasing across Australia and around the world. Increasing visitation and growing resident populations to the region, along with development pressures, highlight the importance of working with traditional landowners and stakeholders to protect and conserve the unique values of the region.

Joint management

We acknowledge and respect the unique role and expertise Aboriginal people have as the traditional custodians of the lands and waters across the State. Over the past two decades, joint management plans facilitated by Indigenous Land Use Agreements (ILUAs) have actively engaged traditional owners in jointly managing existing CALM Act estates and in the creation of new marine and terrestrial parks and conservation reserves.

The Kimberley region was one of the first areas to enter into formal joint management arrangements and continues to lead this with nine ILUAs as of February 2019, with active negotiations with another five traditional owner groups currently in progress. In the near future this could translate to a total of 3.5 million hectares of jointly managed conservation lands across the Kimberley. 

Joint management is about shared ‘management’ of land, regardless of the ‘ownership’ of the land. This means that Aboriginal people can enter into agreements to jointly manage lands with government and landowners. This encourages empowerment of Aboriginal people to have equal decision making by working together to share knowledge and by capturing their aspirations into park management plans that support on-ground land management practices across tenures. 

A significant benefit of joint management is the investment into training, skill development and employment of Aboriginal rangers through direct employment within the department, or fee for service with other existing ranger groups. In addition to this, the State Government’s successful Aboriginal Ranger Program has created further opportunities for traditional owners to jointly manage country. Under the program, new and existing Aboriginal organisations can employ and train rangers and carry out land and sea management and tourism activities across a range of tenures in remote and regional Western Australia. This translates into many social and individual benefits for Aboriginal people and their local communities, building capacity and confidence to achieve conservation, environmental and cultural heritage outcomes for a healthy country and a strong future.

Joint management facilitates opportunities for Aboriginal people to spend time on their country and encourages the intergenerational transfer of knowledge from elders to young people, helping to conserve culture and apply Traditional Ecological Knowledge (TEK), inspiring and building capacity for future generations of Aboriginal people to work on country into the future. This two-way learning exchange, combining TEK with modern science, shared with land management partners will promote shared conservation and protection of the environment, culture and heritage in the Kimberley.

National and marine parks and conservation areas

The McGowan Government’s commitment Plan for Our Parks will secure five million hectares of new national parks, marine parks and conservation reserves over the next five years. In the Kimberley this is proposed to add the Buccaneer Archipelago Marine Park and Fitzroy River National Park to the 3.5 million hectares of existing terrestrial and marine parks. While many parks are still in the early stages of establishing facilities, signage and infrastructure, many have also been key visitor attractions for a long time, positioning the Kimberley as a sought-after destination for visitors to the region.

Visit our Kimberley Region National Parks on the Explore Parks website

  • Indigenous rangers mud sampling at Roebuck Bay
    Indigenous rangers mud sampling at Roebuck Bay Photo: Jennifer Eliot/DBCA
  • Flatback turtle hatchling Photo ֠Kellie Pendoley
    Flatback turtle hatchling Photo: Kellie Pendoley/DBCA
  • Humpback Whale
    Humpback whale Photo: Doug Coughran/DBCA