The Alinytjara Wilurara (AW) natural resource management (NRM) region covers the north west third of South Australia. In Pitjantjatjara, 'alinytjara' means 'north' and 'wilurara' means 'west'.
The AW NRM region covers more than 250,000 square kilometres, stretching from the Northern Territory and West Australian borders south to the Great Australian Bight. The regional boundary extends to the edge of the State Waters (three nautical miles off-shore) in the Great Australian Bight and includes the South Australian part of the Great Australian Bight Marine Park. The land and its 340 kilometres of coastline are mostly dedicated to conservation and traditional Aboriginal use and occupation. The homelands and community townships are inhabited by approximately 4,000 people. The region is managed as nine distinct landscapes.
There is no privately owned land in the region. More than half of AW is held as dedicated Aboriginal lands and is owned or in the trust of three key land holding authorities:
- Yalata (vested in the Aboriginal Lands Trust under the Aboriginal Lands Trust Act 1966)
- Anangu Pitjantjatjara Yankunytjatjara (APY) Lands (vested in the Anangu Pitjantjatjara under the Pitjantjatjara Land Rights Act 1981)
- Maralinga Tjarutja (MT) Lands (vested in the Maralinga Tjarutja under the Maralinga Tjarutja Land Rights Act 1984)
The region also includes areas adjoining the Yalata and Maralinga Tjarutja Lands, dedicated under the National Parks and Wildlife Act:
- Mamungari Conservation Park
- Tallaringa Nature Reserve
- Yumbarra Nature Reserve
- Pureba Nature Reserve
- Nullarbor Regional Reserve
- Nullarbor Wilderness Protection Area
- Yellabinna Nature Reserve
- Yellabinna Wilderness Protection Area.
The AW NRM region is diverse in its fauna, flora and cultural heritage. With some of the hottest and most remote areas in South Australia and no permanent rivers or creeks, water is a limiting factor throughout the region.
Threats to natural resources in the region include:
- impact of pest species, including:
- pest plants, particularly buffel grass and athel pine
- altered fire regimes
- impacts of unsustainable development
- unsustainable water use
- lack of documented information about the health and trends of natural resources.
People and country
People of the AW region have a high degree of cultural connection to country and a recognised traditional ownership of country. 'Country' is the term commonly used to explain the land or waters with which an Aboriginal person, persons, community or homeland family has an association. These associations may also mean a responsibility to care for specific parts of the country or for particular species. Traditional owners may not necessarily live in their local community or on their homeland, but they nevertheless have a role in 'speaking for country' and taking a leadership role in managing the land.
The connection to country is built upon 'Tjukurpa', which forms the basis of Anangu law and culture.
Managing natural resources in the region
Natural resources management is similar to the Aboriginal notion of 'caring for country'. Although the methods may be quite different in practice, natural resources management and caring for country both focus on protection of the land for the mutual benefit of people and the environment. The unique nature of the region requires a balance between'traditional' authority and 'government' authority. To be successful, the AW NRM Board partners with elders and traditional owners to blend modern NRM practices with traditional care of country, while ensuring good governance in relation to the board and its programs.
With this balance in mind, the vision for natural resources in the AW NRM region is for 'a healthy and valued region, managed responsibly now, for the future benefit of people and country'. To achieve this vision, the AW NRM Board has worked with the community and stakeholders to develop a regional NRM Plan that sets targets for the condition of the environment in the region. Natural Resources AW works with the community and industries in the region to deliver programs and projects that aim to achieve these targets.
Continuing climate change will mean that land managers and traditional owners in the AW NRM region will need to develop and implement effective responses to the impacts of climate change, to sustainably manage local environments.