THE HON TANYA PLIBERSEK MP
MINISTER FOR THE ENVIRONMENT AND WATER
SPEECH FOR THE 25TH ANNIVERSARY OF AUSTRALIA’S INDIGENOUS PROTECTED AREA PROGRAM
WEDNESDAY 15 NOVEMBER 2023
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Thank you for that welcome to country Tina.
I recognise that we meet tonight on the land of the Ngunnawal and Ngambri people.
I acknowledge the traditional owners and pay my respect to their elders past and present.
I also acknowledge all the representatives from our Indigenous Protected Areas who have who made the journey to be here tonight.
It is an honour to join you for this special anniversary.
Twenty five years ago, the Adnyamathanha people established Australia’s first Indigenous Protected Area.
It was the start of a movement, which has spread across this continent like a brilliant, unstoppable flame.
A flame that continues to burn brightly, thanks to the people gathered here tonight.
One of the great experiences of my job has been visiting different IPAs around Australia, meeting the traditional owners, experiencing their country.
Earlier this year, I spent an unforgettable day with a group of Indigenous Rangers and Elders on the Katiti-Petermann Indigenous Protected Area, which surrounds the Uluru-Kata Tjuta National Park.
Watching them work, hearing the stories, seeing their skills up close, it was clear that no one knows their land like they do, and no one is better placed to care for it than they are.
The Rangers showed me some of their work dealing with invasive species, protecting native animals from feral cats.
They took me on a walk to see how they use cultural burning to keep the environment healthy and reduce the risk of dangerous bushfires.
And at the end of the day, one of the Rangers named Craig was generous enough to share one of his cultural stories with me, the story of the Mala, a gorgeous little wallaby that lives in the central desert.
I won’t try to repeat the story. I couldn’t do Craig justice.
But he did tell me the story had a moral – that if we start something, we have to finish it.
And I want to assure everybody here tonight, that is what our government intends to do.
We want to see more traditional owners protecting more of our land, supporting more Indigenous Rangers to live and work on country.
And we want to give you the resources you need to do that work.
In July this year, I announced our government’s funding for ten new IPAs, with Minister Burney.
And tonight, I am very happy to announce that our government will invest $160.5 million to ensure our First Nations can continue this critical work.
This will support Indigenous Australians to manage their existing IPAs.
Funding essential projects, like eradicating feral animals and weeds, recording and dating rock art, monitoring threatened species, cleaning up marine debris, and training new Indigenous Rangers.
This money will mean you can keep doing what you do best.
Conserving our land, protecting our water, maintaining that connection to Country.
IPAs now cover 87 million hectares of Australia’s land and over 5 million hectares of Sea Country – over fifty per cent of our national estate.
You are doing some heavy lifting to get us to our target of protecting thirty percent of Australia’s land and sea by the end of this decade.
And these numbers continue to grow.
I recently dedicated Australia’s 83rd and 84th IPA – managed by the Wik people and the Wuthathi people in Cape York.
Beautiful places, now managed by experts who love them.
The first IPA in the Flinders Ranges began with a simple idea:
That if we listened to First Nations people, that if we valued First Nations expertise, that if we empowered First Nations communities on the ground, we could protect Australia’s environment, while also supporting local jobs and economic development.
That has proven to be the case.
Wherever they're found, IPAs produce better outcomes.
That means stronger protection for native plants and animals, more employment for local people, greater economic opportunities for remote towns, and a more resilient connection to culture and history.
And with this latest round of funding, that will continue to go from strength to strength.
This is part of our government’s $231.5 million commitment to expand and improve the IPA program.
And it will be supported by our plan to double the number of Indigenous Rangers by the end of the decade.
We are also setting up our Nature Repair Market, which would provide an economic return for the kind of work you do on your IPAs.
We are so lucky in Australia to have the world’s most successful environmentalists to learn from.
In twenty five years, this program has changed the face of our country.
I have no doubt you will achieve all that and more in the next twenty five.
Congratulations and happy anniversary.