Brief Description of the Ngaanyatjarra Lands
The Ngaanyatjarra Lands comprise a vast area of Western Australia (250,000 km2 or approximately 3% of mainland Australia) adjoining the Northern Territory and South Australian borders. These Lands are entirely within the state of Western Australia and fall within three shires: Ngaanyatjarraku, East Pilbara and Laverton.
The Outback Way (Great Central Road) bisects the Ngaanyatjarra Lands east to southwest, providing access to two major regional centres: Alice Springs (1,000 km NE of Warburton) and Kalgoorlie (900 km SW of Warburton). The 1,000 km section of road from Laverton to Uluru National Park is unsealed and subject to wet weather closure. Whilst numerous other roads exist, they are generally poorly (if at all) maintained and require special permits for transit (see Protocol under the Tourism section for more information).
Traditional Owners have maintained continuous association with their country, comprise the majority resident population, and provide the entire regional infrastructure such as roads, roadhouses, stores, health clinics, and aerial services.
The Ngaanyatjarra Lands encompass sections of the Gibson Desert, Great Sandy Desert, Great Victoria Desert, and all of the Central Ranges that occur in Western Australia. These four regions correspond to the Interim Biogeographic Regionalisation for Australia (IBRA) regions of the same name, as described by Thackway and Cresswell (1995).
These immense areas of spectacular scenery have few obvious signs of human presence. In particular, the Central Ranges are considered by the Australian Heritage Commission to have “great conservational [sic] and recreational importance which is equal to or greater than that of Ayers Rock” (AHC 1981).
Ngaanyatjarra Land Council holds some of this land as 99-year and 50-year leases and Aboriginal Reserve. The rest of the area is part of the Ngaanyatjarra native Title determination (2005). Although the people of the Western Desert Cultural Bloc are not limited by boundaries or borders and have traditional responsibilities that go beyond these, historic events led to the provision of services being defined by state borders and the formation of the Ngaanyatjarra Council that defines the Ngaanyatjarra Lands.
Permits for entry by non-Aboriginal people onto the Ngaanyatjarra Lands is under the authority of the Aboriginal Lands Trust, administered by Ngaanyatjarra Council.
The pattern of existing land use within the Ngaanyatjarra Lands is complex and varied, though traditional practices continue to predominate. There has never been a pastoral industry in the region although the United Aborigines Mission at Warburton managed sheep, cattle, goats and horses until the mid-1980s. The only export industries have been sandalwood harvest, collection of dingo scalps, and prospecting. Physical access to and within the Ngaanyatjarra Lands is difficult, as even major roads are not all weather. Permits for travel by non-Aboriginal people anywhere other than the Great Central Road has to be approved by Ngaanyatjarra Council (permits for transit on the Great Central Road can be readily obtained from the Council’s Alice Springs office or WA Department of Indigenous Affairs in Kalgoorlie).
Mining and Petroleum Exploration is a major activity in the region. Although there are no working mines an Agreement to Mine the Wingellina Nickel Deposit has been made, and a very detailed assessment of the Nebo Babel Nickel Deposits is being made near Jameson. Ngaanyatjarra Land and Culture supports the agreement making to cover these areas in consultation with traditional owners.
The Land and Culture program assist Traditional Owners to Manage their land by the Ngaanyatjarra Indigenous Protected Area Program (declared 2002) and employs Indigenous Land Management Officers through the Ngaanyatjarra Working on Country Program.
Major Conservation Activities include the national Feral Camel Control Program, Patch burning, maintaining the network of bores and hand pumps to allow Ngaanyatjarra people to safely travel their lands.
The Ngaanyatjarra IPA covers 98,129 km2 and is one of the largest in the country. The Management Plan is regularly updated and provides a framework for the people of the Ngaanyatjarra Lands to care for their Country.