Indigenous rangers employed by the Murujuga Aboriginal Corporation will manage Western Australia’s 100th National Park, expected to be officially announced and gazetted in January.
The Murujuga National Park will incorporate sections of the Burrup Peninsula not already used by industrial developments and will be the first owned by Aboriginal people.
It will also be the first where rangers monitoring the park will be employed by an organisation other than the Department of Environment and Conservation.
Murujuga Aboriginal Corporation chief executive Ron Critchley said approval had been a long time in planning and would see a unique management structure established.
Mr Critchley said the final plan had to be signed off by State and local government departments but, pending approval, title to the area would be transferred to the Murujuga Aboriginal Corporation.
“The bid started out in 2002, which is the agreement that when they built Pluto the rest of the Burrup would be handed to Murujuga so we would get title and turn it into a national park,” he said.
“Unfortunately there were legal problems and … we had to wait until the act was changed, which didn’t happen until last year.”
Mr Critchley said changes to the Conservation and Land Management Act allowed for joint management of the park between the Murujuga Aboriginal Corporation and the DEC.
He said indigenous rangers would report to a joint park management council made up of six MAC representatives, three from the DEC and one from the Department of Indigenous Affairs.
“We have six rangers at the moment who we are putting through training,” he said.
“What we have done is create a circle of elders and they have the cultural knowledge of the Burrup and they will direct what happens there in the future.”
The Burrup Peninsula is an important cultural site.
It features depictions of the thylacine, or Tasmanian tiger, and fat-tailed kangaroo, which have been extinct on the Australian mainland for thousands of years.
Mr Critchley said standard national park rules would apply, with rangers having the power to police and monitor the park for graffiti, illegal fires and dogs.
Management of Hearsons Cove – a popular beach on the Burrup – would remain with the Shire of Roebourne. Past president of the Australian Rock Art Association Ken Mulvaney said while he hadn’t seen the management plan, he hoped the area would be better protected by the national park status.
“There continues to be a major problem of people putting graffiti on rock art,” he said.
“It is illegal and there are heavy penalties under both State and Commonwealth legislation.”