The project, led by Wamud Namok and chaired by Terrah Guyamala, takes a partnerships approach, building relationships and agreements with both the private and public conservation sector to support Warddeken caring for country work.
It is using innovative ways to build financial capacity for the long term sustainability of their people, country and culture.
The Warddeken Caring for Country Project operates across the Warddeken Indigenous Protected Area (IPA), located in the West Arnhem Land region in the Northern Territory, to the east of Kakadu national Park.
Warddeken is a Kundedjnjenhmi word used to describe the ‘people of the rock country’.
It covers more than 1 million hectares of ancient stone and gorge country on the western Arnhem Land plateau, home of the Bininj Kunwok clans. Warddeken is a Kundedjnjenhmi word used to describe the ‘people of the rock country’.
The area is richly biodiverse, having been geologically stable for millions of years. It has numerous, diverse refuges that protect plants and animals from fires and climate shifts. It is home to dozens of endemic plants, a host of threatened species and possibly a new and unique ecological community - sandstone heathlands. Thousands of spectacular rock art galleries, occupation shelters and other sites represent a cultural and environmental record stretching back over millennia.
In 2008 the Bininj Kunwok clans of western Arnhem Land came together to found Warddeken Land Management Limited. The Warddeken Caring for Country project is run through the Warddeken Land Management Pty Ltd, a community operated enterprise which provides cultural and land management services. Based at the Kabulwarnamyo outstation community, the Warddeken Caring for Country project and management of the Indigenous Protected Area has bought the clans back onto their traditional country, look after it, to preserve and revitalise their traditional culture and knowledge.
Warddeken people work on many parts of looking after country from, training in and developing the Dolkkebulbul (Ngorlkware) and Nablean (Kodwalewale) Healthy Country Plan 2012-2023 by using an internationally recognised planning approach, to managing weeds such as the giant sensitive plant Mimosa pigra on their outstation areas which is presenting a serious threat to country.
They also conduct fire management that is dramatically reducing the impact of wildfire on their country, halting it’s impacts on changing the diversity of the country and reducing carbon emissions. They survey, record and manage the many significant rock art sites across the plautea. They monitor and manage feral animals such as buffalo and cats that are having devastating impacts on the country and small mammals and reptiles.
The project has picked up the 2011 Caring for Country Indigenous Banksia Award and more recently the Eureka Prize for Innovative Solutions to Climate Change.
The project is a community directed and implemented one.
The project is a community directed and implemented one that employs many rounds of consultations and community workshops with all ages and groups in the community and non-Aboriginal people to develop their guiding plan for the Caring for Country.
Traditional Owners and the Warddekken Land Management rangers have led the way in innovative approaches to fire management. In 2006 they developed The West Arnhem Land Fire Abatement Project (WALFA).
The project is a partnership between the Aboriginal Traditional Owners and ranger groups of the plateau, Darwin Liquefied Natural Gas (DLNG), the Northern Territory Government and the Northern Land Council.
Aboriginal ranger groups using traditional fire management practices with scientific knowledge are doing strategic early season cool burning across 28 000kilometre squared with their neighbouring ranger groups, on the Djelk IPA.
The Caring for Country project has countless benefits to country, it has its people back to sing country, to renew places, keep it healthy including having younger members visit their clan estates and learn of their stories and responsibilities for the first time.
The feral animal control, mainly buffalo, by aerial culling has reduced numbers by several hundred, reducing erosion and damage around art sites and cultural places.
The weed management work is reducing weeds from spread and reducing it on the waterways.
It is the largest employer of the community and over the years of the Caring for Country project employment rates for community members has increased.
The project has had many benefits back to community, in many ways. It is the largest employer of the community and over the years of the Caring for Country project employment rates for community members has increased. The Warddeken Land Management team includes two ranger groups who do the management activities, with cultural experts involved to guide the work.
These include the Binij rangers with 20 full time staff and many casuals and the Daluk rangers that with12 full time rangers plus a number of casual staff. Rangers are training on the job, picking up new skills particularly through the partnership with scientist and other Balanda’.
During the monitoring and survey work the Elders and children have been involved, with the old people educating and inspiring the young. Elders teach children about their country, what foods and medicines there, the dreaming stories and how to look after the land. More young people are taking on ranger positions.