ACT Indigenous protected areas

All jurisdictions in Australia except the ACT have declared indigenous protected areas (‘IPAs’). These are areas of Indigenous-owned land or sea where traditional owners have entered into an agreement with the Australian government to promote biodiversity and cultural resource conservation. In the ACT, a slightly different approach has been adopted with the ACT government signing, in 2001, a Namadgi Special Aboriginal Lease with a number of Aboriginal groups.

The Namadgi Special Purpose Aboriginal Lease provides these Aboriginal groups with:
  • a right to participate in the Namadgi National Park
  • acknowledgment as people with an historical association with the area
  • a right to be consulted on specific regional indigenous cultural issues
  • a right to be consulted on the development of new legislation or amendments to existing legislation that will impact on Namadgi National Park.
The Namadgi Special Purpose Aboriginal Lease is not a lease or licence over Namadgi National Park as defined in the Planning Act, but is an agreement about how Namadgi National Park is to be managed. The park remains open to the public and the special lease does not alter the conservation values enshrined for the area under the Planning Act.

As part of the arrangements for the agreement, in 2001 an Interim Namadgi Advisory Board was set up with the chair and half of the board membership being indigenous persons. Ultimately, it was intended that a permanent Namadgi advisory board would be established. The Interim Board last met in August 2006.

While a permanent advisory board has not been established, the ACT government has established the Namadgi Rock Art Working Group, which involves the local indigenous community in the management of Namadgi’s important cultural sites. The ACT government has stated that the indigenous community should be actively engaged in the management of the ACT’s conservation reserves and that it continues to investigate appropriate mechanisms to achieve this.

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