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Perspectives of Aboriginal People

The connection of Aboriginal people with Country does not separate the individual features of the landscape such as water, land and sky, but sees them as one. Also, Aboriginal people see themselves as belonging to Country rather than Country belonging to them. The health of land and water are central to culture, and Aboriginal people consider they have a responsibility to care for it.

For the first time, the SOER has included the views of Aboriginal peoples on the health of Country. It aims to better-represent the role and opportunity for Aboriginal peoples in looking after Country. The EPA has commenced the journey of walking together with Aboriginal peoples in the development of the SOER.

In the preparation of the SOER, the EPA has met Dr Roger Thomas, the (then) Commissioner for Aboriginal Engagement, and the Landscape Board general managers and Chairs to discuss opportunities for working together, given that the Statement of Commitment signed by the nine Boards overlaps with the objectives of the SOER.

The EPA also met with other groups to seek their perspectives on health of Country.

Aboriginal Engagement Committee Northern and Yorke Landscape Board

The Aboriginal Engagement Committee works with the Northern and Yorke Landscape Board and includes representatives from the region’s 5 Nations – Nukunu, Narungga, Ngadjuri, Kaurna and Peramangk. They stated that the South Australian Government should aim for ‘a cohesive working partnership and relationship’ and that ‘Partnerships and relationships are very important’, as ‘it is not just about providing advice, information and recommendations’. 

In looking after Country, ‘we need to share the driving and not drive with one of us in the back seat’. It is important to look after land for wellbeing and culture. If our land is not well, we are not well’1. They also recommended that regional partnerships should be established to help care for Country that include representatives from Aboriginal Nations, local government, Landscape Boards, DEW and the EPA. 

1Consent obtained from Ms. Pat Waria-Read, Ngadjuri Elder.

Alinytjara Wilurara Landscape Board

Members of the Alinytjara Wilurara Landscape Board raised the issue of ‘accessibility of the SOER, for example, videos, instead of text, and that internet access is problematic for some Aboriginal communities’. They also stated that ‘working with Aboriginal communities is needed’ and that ‘the SOER needs to strengthen the narrative about Aboriginal people’s link to the land and their involvement in looking after Country and how they are achieving this’.


The EPA met with representatives from Warpulai Kumangka (Kaurna strategic advisory group to Green Adelaide) who provided their views on the importance of people’s connection to Country and the link between the health of Country and the health of people. They stressed the importance of working together and caring for Country, and expressed their concern for the health of Country.

A number of comments were made by members of Warpulai Kumangka (meaning ‘working together’).

Nipapanha Community Aboriginal Corporation

The EPA met with Nantawarrina Aboriginal Rangers from the Nipapanha Community Aboriginal Corporation. The rangers are from the Nepabunna Community, which is 60 km east of Leigh Creek via Copley, and are Adnyamathanha First Nations people (pronounced ‘ad-nya-mut-na’).

Around 20 people live in the Nepabunna/Nipapanha Community, but this is reducing as people are moving away due to health, school, sport and other reasons.

Adnyamathanha Country includes the Nantawarrina Indigenous Protected Area (Nantawarrina IPA), which was the first Indigenous Protected Area in Australia. The Nantawarrina IPA was established in 1998, when a degraded 58,000-hectare pastoral property was taken over by the Nepabunna Community, who have been restoring the land. The restored land is used for cultural and conservation purposes, with paid access for tourists. The rangers work on Country to protect and continue to restore the land.

Why is health of Country important

  • Provides food, water and firewood and helps the community to keep going.
  • Important for culture (’show young ones’), education (‘learn language’) and health (Healthy Country, Healthy People).
  • Supports income via tourism in the Nantawarrina IPA, which includes camping and tours (60 to 70 cars per year). Feedback sheets from tourists have been positive.

How healthy is Country

  • The health of Country is ‘Fair’. There has been improvement, but there is still plenty of work to do.
  • Health of Country has significantly improved since the land was converted from pastoralism to an Indigenous Protected Area. However, this has taken around 20 years of work.

What is affecting the health of Country

  • Health of Country has mainly been impacted by past grazing, when the IPA was a pastoral property and, currently, by goats and donkeys and increasing kangaroo numbers (there were plenty of kangaroos and Euros before the drought and, subsequently, the drought reduced numbers, but their numbers are now starting to increase).
  • Smaller native animals are eaten by cats, foxes and wild dogs.
  • Some annual weeds occur after rains, but these die off and are not a major issue.
  • There are some old copper mines present on the land. However, these are not active and do not impact health of Country.
  • Old watering points can require more restoration work, as they were more affected by previous pastoral land use.
  • Sheep that have escaped from nearby pastoral areas can enter and graze in the IPA, but rangers contact pastoralists to collect these.
  • Camels, rabbits and impacts from tourists are not a concern at this stage.
  • Not really observing much change associated with climate change. Climate is relatively stable in the region.

What is being done to look after Country

  • The establishment of the IPA was an important way of enabling the community to look after Country.
  • Continuing funding support for the Nipapanha Community Aboriginal Corporation and the Nantawarrina Indigenous Protected Area is essential to help the rangers and the community to look after Country.
  • Cats and foxes are being baited and trapped. Reduction in numbers caught has been observed over the years.
  • Goats and donkeys are being mustered by contractors, and a portion of the profits is going back into the community.
  • Monitoring of the health of water is done on Country. The water is fed from local springs and supports animal and plant life. Monitoring is undertaken every two months and has shown an improvement in water quality.
  • Quolls are being released into neighbouring properties and are traversing across Nantawarrina land. A proposal has been made to also release quolls onto Nantawarrina land.
  • Some spraying of weeds is carried out for the problem weeds, such as Horehound and Tobacco Bush.
  • Monitoring of native animals is carried out via trap and release and camera footage.
  • Revegetation via collection of seeds native to the region is undertaken. This occurs across the land and mainly concentrates on revegetating bare patches. A plant nursery exists in the community.
  • The Department for Environment and Water (DEW) assists with aerial baiting of dogs and cats in non-accessible areas (rugged terrain).
  • Work is carried out in partnership with schools and universities to further education.

What more needs to be done to look after Country

  • More discussions, workshops, forums and networking opportunities with other stakeholders are needed for looking after Country (for example, other Aboriginal rangers and corporations, Department for Environment and Water, Landscape SA and the EPA) to learn and share information.
  • We need to find out what others are doing and visit other IPAs.
  • Succession planning with the young ones for the Ranger Program is required.
  • Overall, the community believe they are ‘winning’ and that Country is improving in condition.