(c) David Hancock
(c) Dan McLaren
The Warddeken Indigenous Protected Area (IPA) forms a significant part of Australia's National Reserve System. Covering 1,394,951 hectares of spectacular stone and gorge country on the Arnhem Plateau immediately east of Kakadu National Park, it encompasses six outstation communities: Kabulwarnamyo, Manmoyi, Kamarrkawarn, Marlkawo, Kumarrirnbang and Kudjekbinj.
The Warddeken IPA is owned and managed by the Traditional Owners of 36 different clan groups, through a complex system of customary law. This ownership is recognised under the Aboriginal Land Rights Act 1976.
The IPA is home to dozens of endemic plants, a host of threatened species and the federally protected Arnhem Plateau Sandstone Shrubland Complex. Threatened species include the bustard, northern quoll, black wallaroo, Arnhem Land rock-rat and the Oenpelli python. Significantly for the surrounding region the IPA encompasses the head waters of the major water catchments of the Katherine, East Alligator, South Alligator, Goomadeer, Mann, Liverpool and Cadell rivers.
Tens of thousands of individual occupation and rock art sites across the IPA are testament to the ongoing habitation of the region. Stunning rock paintings tell creation stories, record the way Aboriginal people lived tens of thousands of years ago and even depict first contact with European settlers.
Warddeken Land Management Ltd. operates out of the remote communities of Kabulwarnamyo, Manmoyi and Mamaradwerre and employs up to 130 Indigenous rangers a year on a casual basis. Rangers work on a variety of projects including fire management and carbon abatement, weed and feral animal control, rock art conservation, education and cultural heritage management. Passing on traditional ecological knowledge to younger generations is a key role for rangers as they act as important role models in their communities.