Yindjibarndi people have been working with government representatives like Stephen Dawson and Allisdair MacDonald. (ABC Pilbara: Kendall O’Connor)
It will be home to luxury camping, swimming, kayaking, cultural tours and a restaurant in a setting showcasing the typical, rugged beauty of Western Australia.
- A new lease has been granted to traditional owners to develop eco-tourism in the Millstream Chichester National Park
- The West Australian State Government has yet to allocate funding
- Yindjibarndi Aboriginal Corporation elders hope the program will encourage new employment opportunities
Millstream Chichester National Park is the second jewel in the crown of north-west WA’s national park systems after Karijini, hosting an oasis in the desert of spinifex-covered hills and fresh, clear water direct from the vast underground aquifer.
This artesian basin kept early Afghan cameleers in business during 19th century development of the Pilbara through inland routes to the desert regions.
Within the park, Palm Pool is the subject of a newly-granted lease for 25 glamping tents, and caravan and camping sites to be built by traditional Yindjibarndi owners.
It is also home to 120 species of birds, 30 species of mammals, 150 species of reptiles, and 500 species of plants.
Swimming, kayaking, cultural tours and a restaurant are all on the cards if and when it passes the next phase of feasibility through to development.
Palm Pool at Millstream Chichester National Park, a new ecotourism location (ABC Pilbara: Susan Standen)
The WA Government has granted the Yindjibarndi Aboriginal Corporation (YAC) the lease to run the ecotourism venture in Millstream National Park after three years of negotiations, hoping to develop work opportunities for Indigenous rangers and tour guides.
Questions remain however about the government’s commitment as no funding allocations have yet been made.
Yindjibarndi owners are also challenging the lease conditions, believing they should not have to pay to lease back their own country.
It is hoped a percentage of profits will serve to meet this lease requirement.
While negotiations are still underway on the cost of the venture, the State Government has committed to assist YAC wherever it can to get it up and running.
“Yindjibarndi Aboriginal Corporation looks forward to developing an ongoing partnership with the State Government, which is crucial to the project’s eventual development,” Michael Woodley, CEO of YAC said.
Michael Woodley (centre) with Stanley Warrie and Middleton Cheedy at Palm Pool. (ABC Pilbara: Kendall O’Connor)
Mr Woodley, along with elders Stanley Warrie and Middleton Cheedy, hopes the development will enable new employment opportunities to share culture with national and international visitors.
“All of these sites have connection to our song cycle so we’ll be able to also explain our making of artefacts and ceremonies,” he said.
“The elders can sit down with them in the night around the fire camp and share stories, bush food, medicine, and stories about some significant places in the river system.”
Access to the area from the north also depends on the completion of the Karratha-to-Tom Price road which is still being sealed.
Many grey nomads have bypassed this area up to now on their journey north or south due to the difficult dirt road conditions.
The granting of the lease is part of a two-year action plan by the State Government for increased nature-based tourism across WA.
Environment Minister Stephen Dawson said the park received about 49,000 annual visitors and was a special place on the state’s camping route.
“We’ll see people come in here and experience a facility much like Karijini National Park, but it will be run by Aboriginal people,” Mr Dawson said.
While there is no commitment by the State Government to fund it, Mr Dawson said they would help YAC wherever they could to make sure the development got off the ground.
“Unashamedly as a state government, we’re committed to expanding the conservation state [of] Western Australia,” he said.
“Over the next five years, we’re adding an extra 5 million hectares to national parks, marine parks and reserves.
“But it’s not about locking up the parks — we want people in the parks engaging with traditional owners where they support that.”
Mr Dawson has also announced $600,000 of funding over the next two years to reinvigorate the Ngurrawaana Indigenous rangers, part of the Yindjibarndi vision of development on country.
Recruitment has begun to employ and train rangers for 2020-21.
The Department of Biodiversity, Conservation, and Attractions currently manages the 200,000 hectare site around the Fortescue River, a popular spot for locals but yet-to-be well known location for international visitors.
The landscape consists of the volcanic Chichester ranges and tablelands, one of the few inland Pilbara areas cut by rivers and streams which flow all year round, providing great camping, walking, and stargazing opportunities.
Credit: Source link