BY JEMMA SCOTT
Western Australia’s Kimberley coastline; stretching from Broome up to the outskirts of Kununurra is praised as one of the most pristine marine environments in the world: 13,000 kilometres of raw, rugged beauty with an abundance of wildlife and a rich Indigenous culture.
Each year with a new government and ‘uninhabited’ profitable land, this entire region becomes threatened by anthropogenic changes such as mining for oil and gas and infrastructural development- having irreversible effects on the surrounding ecosystem.
Thankfully there are a few organisations and an awesome number of people out there pushing for the protection of the land, wildlife and Indigenous communities in this stunning region of Western Australia.
Monique Barker is one of these people- working for The Kimberley Like Nowhere Else, she’s told us a bit about what they do as an organisation, and why you should visit this great land for yourself.
Why is the Kimberley such a special place?
The Kimberley region has some of the largest intact natural areas left on the planet – comparable with the Great Barrier Reef and Amazon rainforest. The Kimberley’s beauty is matched only by its enormous diversity – with stunning seas, deserts, islands, sandstone gorges, mangroves, rainforests, savannahs and woodlands.
The Kimberley is also a culturally rich region, where Traditional Owners’ ancient practices and connection to their country continue today. This culture is expressed in oral tradition, cultural practice and also vast and largely unexplored rock art galleries across the region, many with paintings that are tens of thousands of years old.
A few weeks ago you had the amazing opportunity to visit the Kimberley and learn a few things from the Indigenous people. Can you tell us a bit about what you got up to?
Two colleagues and I were lucky enough to be invited along to a Woman’s Bush Camp that took place for 4 nights on Karajarri land, south of Bidyadanga on the Kimberley Coast. The camp was organised by the Yiriman project, which is an intergenerational, “on-Country” cultural program, conceived and developed directly by Elders from four Kimberly language groups- Nyikina, Mangala, Karajarri and Walmajarri- whose aim is to “build stories in young people”.
These four language groups form their own culture block, having similar cultural, geographical, language and kinship ties across a vast region of traditional lands stretching from the coastline south of Broome, inland to the desert areas south and just east of Fitzroy Crossing, Western Australia. It was a real privilege to be exposed to such culture connections and people, the ladies contributed knowledge and skills in various workshops on bush medicine, bead making, tie-dying, fishing… it was an incredible experience that will stay with me for life!
In recent years, what has the Kimberley Like Nowhere Else achieved in regards to campaign wins and protected land?
The job of protecting the Kimberley is not finished; however already through strong community support the campaign has helped achieve some significant wins. Together we have achieved historic protection for the Kimberley. With the addition of Roebuck Bay, Horizontal Falls and the North Kimberley to existing parks at Camden Sound and Eighty Mile Beach, five marine parks have been added toward the vision of protecting the Kimberley Coast in a Great Kimberley Marine Park. On the adjacent land, new protected areas have been created at Eighty Mile Beach and Roebuck Bay adding to the 175,000 hectares of the Mitchell Plateau that was protected from mining in 2014.
The Kimberley’s coastline stretches more than 13,000 kilometers. Where’s the next area you’ve got your eye on/what are the current government plans/ proposals for infrastructure or mining?
The previous Government made good progress towards a Great Kimberley Marine Park, but also left key areas unprotected. In the lead-up to the recent election, we worked with key decision makers on a plan to finish the job of protecting the Kimberley. We are delighted that Labor made two major election commitments on Kimberley conservation.
In Labor’s Plan for the Kimberley, there is a commitment to expand the marine park network to include the Buccaneer Archipelago. The plan to seal the Cape Leveque road will increase traffic and pressure, so the Park will be crucial to supporting and managing the expansion of tourism into this area. WA Labor also promised to protect the National Heritage Listed Fitzroy River with a new National Park over some of the most spectacular gorges and a management plan to ensure conservation and sustainable development of the catchment. This promise was prompted in part the Fitzroy Declaration, a strong statement of concern from Traditional Owners from the region about ad-hoc development in the river catchment. The Fitzroy Declaration should be a guiding document for the next steps for the river.
Eco-tourism will play a major part in pushing for protection; do you think you’ll start collaborating with some of these companies?
Environs Kimberley, one of our partner groups of The Kimberley Like Nowhere Else Alliance, is based in Broome and regularly interacts with key tourism stakeholder businesses. In particular tourism businesses have been supportive and demonstrative in the work towards ending destructive gillnet fishing in the remote North Kimberley.
How can we get involved to help protect and preserve the Kimberley?
There are various ways you can get involved and play a role in protection of the Kimberley. By joining The Kimberley Like Nowhere Else mailing list you will then receive updates when we are promoting new online actions that you can then do. Furthermore, you can come along to an event – we regularly host popular fun events such as the Kimberley Short Film Festival series, which screened in 10 venues across Perth and Broome to around 1,300 people. We are also always keen to take on volunteers here in Perth. Essentially we would just love to hear from you – get in touch if you have a creative idea of how to promote the Kimberley in your local community!
Join The Kimberley Like Nowhere Else fam here!