Aboriginal people are recognised as traditional owners of the lands and waters in Western Australia, including areas designated as national and marine parks and other conservation reserves. Management of these lands and waters must respect and consider Aboriginal cultural values, giving Aboriginal people the opportunity to ensure their culture and heritage is protected for all West Australians. Traditional owners have a unique connection to country and their knowledge and perspectives, formed over many thousands of years, are important to the way that parks and reserves are managed.
Joint management partnerships
Formal joint management partnerships are established between the government and Aboriginal people who have a cultural connection with a park or reserve and who wish to be involved in park management. Developing joint management partnerships is a strategic priority for the Western Australian Government and more will be established throughout the state.
A wide range of management activities are undertaken together with knowledge sharing between traditional owners and government. These include aerial and ground burning, weed and feral animal control, biodiversity and threatened species surveys, design of visitor facilities and signage, and management planning.
Aboriginal ranger programs
The state’s Aboriginal ranger programs support a ‘caring for country’ approach that combines traditional knowledge and methods with modern technologies and land management practices. They are managed by Aboriginal organisations and guided by Aboriginal Elders and community with support and funding from government. The programs enable Aboriginal people to work in land and sea management on country and conduct cultural, tourism and education activities.
Being on country to carry out customary activities is an important part of Aboriginal culture. Aboriginal people are supported to access lands and waters the department manages to maintain culture and meet obligations to manage and care for their ancestral lands.
Traditional names for parks
Using traditional names for parks acknowledges and supports ongoing cultural heritage and helps to educate visitors about Aboriginal culture.
European names were given to many of WA’s natural areas and locations following colonisation but preference for traditional names is gaining momentum. In recent years, new parks such as Ngamoowalem Conservation Park, Murujuga National Park, Yawuru Birragun Conservation Park and Kalgulup Regional Park have been given names recommended by their traditional owners.
Some parks have had names with European origin changed to a traditional name. Examples of these are Wooditjup National Park and the Wunaamin and Miluwindi conservation parks. Other parks and locations carry dual names. Officially recognising geographical places and features by two distinct names, as with Danggu Geikie Gorge National Park with the Aboriginal name appearing first, can be a step in the transition to an Aboriginal name.
Sometimes the use of the old name is retained on signs and in publications until visitors become familiar with the new name.
Aboriginal cultural tourism
Western Australia’s protected areas are significant drawcards for tourism and offer opportunities for visitors to experience Aboriginal culture. DBCAs ‘Culture in the Parks’ program aims to promote and support Aboriginal cultural experiences in parks, through commercial tours, events or through visitor programs.
Aboriginal operators conducting their businesses in parks and reserves share aspects of their culture through tours, stories, songs and dances on their traditional country. By engaging in an Aboriginal cultural experience in a park, visitors can gain an understanding and respect for Aboriginal heritage and culture.
The Western Australian Indigenous Tourism Operators Council (WAITOC) is the peak representative body for Aboriginal tours and experiences in Western Australia, where authentic cultural experiences at a state, national and international level are promoted.
DBCA works in partnership with WAITOC through ‘Culture in the Parks' to support cultural tourism.
You can find many of these opportunities at WAITOC and from local visitor centres.
The department also works closely with a range of partners in facilitating outcomes in Aboriginal tourism including Tourism WA, WA Parks Foundation and Forum Advocating Cultural and Eco Tourism (FACET).
Images of people now deceased
The depiction of deceased members of their communities is taboo in Aboriginal cultures. We will make every effort to ensure that only living Aboriginal people are featured on this website. Please contact us if you know of the death of any Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander person depicted here.