In this episode viewers will look at the evolution of management plans that have been put in place to protect the unique environment of Lake Mungo National Park. The video explores the factors that had to be considered and the issues that impacted on developing the plan that is currently in place. This includes taking on board the natural environment, land use, local knowledge, best practice, and the future.

Land management (13:04)

Episode 14 – Land management

Warning – Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander viewers are warned that the following video may contain images and voices of deceased persons.


Mungo National Park and the Willandra Lakes Regional World Heritage Area needs to be carefully looked after to protect this unique landscape. A detailed management arrangement is in place to carry out this difficult job. It involves several government agencies, Aboriginal people, landholders, scientists, local councils, and others in a cooperative effort.

[Screen reads: World Heritage. The development of the plan]

Ross O Shea – Principal consultant, Mundi Consulting Services

I was part of that journey of putting together the first management plan for the World, for the World Heritage Area. The Willandra was, together with Kakadu, and the Great Barrier Reef, with the first three properties nominated by Australia for World Heritage listing.

[Screen reads: Question. Why is community consultation important?]

As reflecting the, the thinking at the time, there was very little consultation with the, the pastoral landholders or the traditional landholders, prior to listing. In fact, you know, there are stories about the landholders, the pastoral landholders, reading about the listing in the newspaper. After some years, the, there was a need to, to put in place a process to develop a management plan to resolve some of the difficulties that emerged.

The development of the plan of management took some time. And that is also not a criticism because the journey of developing that plan of management was based on developing knowledge and understanding. And I think respect between all the people that had an interest in the World Heritage Area.

This is a very unique World Heritage property. At the time of listing, Mungo National Park was a very, very minor part of the whole area. The pastoral landholders, with a majority of the land.

[Screen reads: Fact. Key stakeholders of the Willandra lakes region: Government, traditional owners, pastoralists]

And developing a plan of management needed to respect the fact that to achieve effective management here, we needed to, not only work with government, but, also to work with the traditional owners and, importantly, work with the pastoral landowners, as well, because the World Heritage listing was over their, was over their property. We ended up with a management plan that did a reasonably good job of meeting the needs of all the people that were interested or involved in the World Heritage Area.

[Screen reads: World heritage. People involved with management of the heritage sites]

Jo Gorman – Area Manager, Lower Darling NSW National Parks and Wildlife

I guess, in, in a lot of our projects and particularly with the cultural site protection, it's about looking at the issues, working out, jointly, on what the issues are and ways, the best ways to protect the cultural heritage.

It's just an amazing opportunity we have in this area. It's so, important for the Aboriginal cultural heritage. It's just an amazing place. And, um, there's a really important opportunity we have for the traditional tribal groups to be engaged in planning for management of what we do.

[Screen reads: Question. What is traditional ecological knowledge (TEK)? How is TEK helping the management of Mungo National Park?]

You know, their knowledge of, of the landscape and, and managing country is, is really strong. And with the groups, the who we work with, the Aboriginal community have a wealth of knowledge and just, you know, things like fire management, you know, starting to tap into the fire management and threatened species.

And, you know, that, that knowledge, and it really has to be something that people are willing to share because, you know, you have to be careful and protect some, some knowledge. And, so, you have to build up trust and, and understanding that it's for good outcomes for everyone.

Ivan Johnston – Discovery Ranger, Mungo National Park

I'm one of the World Heritage Committee members for Mungo National Park. We have got a committee within the same tribal groups. We have to person from each of the tribes. So, we all work together with the World Heritage Committee. I've been working for five years as a discovery ranger.

Our job is to show them and give them a great knowledge of what's out here. You know, we take them up to the walls, we show them the old sites, explain a little bit about them sites, and then we work our way up on top of the walls.

Ian Wakefield – Land holder, Top Hut Station, Willandra Lakes Region

Every property within the World Heritage now is of an individual property claim site and now where you stand as far as management of your property

We had to fight for them to keep their properties there for a while. But, then, now things have changed since. We're more better off than the people outside.

Daniel Rosendahl – Executive Officer, Willandra Lakes Region World Heritage Area

I'm the executive officer for the Willandra Lakes Region World Heritage Area. So, part of my, my role in that position is to ensure that everyone who has a responsibility to look after the World Heritage Area can do that. And, they're all talking with each other.

And, so, there is a lot of people who look after the Willandra Lakes World Heritage Area. We have the, the New South Wales government. There's the Australian government. They're the, the landholders. So, the Willandra Lakes has nine pastoral property sheep stations. So, all, each one of those landholders has a responsibility to help protect the World Heritage Area.

There’re also the three traditional tribal groups of the Willandra Lakes: the Mutthi Mutthi, Ngyiampaa, and Paakantji people. They all have a responsibility to help us protect and care for the World Heritage Area and to get people back out on country and to tell stories about country.

[Screen reads: Question. Given the high number of visitors to the national park, how would you manage the impacts]

And there's also, uh, national parks. So, we, uh, also have Mungo National Park and one of the big properties within the World Heritage Area, and, so, the big impact there, is, is visitors coming in to Mungo National Park and managing the impact of potentially having tens of thousands of people walking over this hugely significant and sacred landscape every year.

[Screen reads: World heritage. Strategies for the management of heritage sites. Question. What are the natural hazards in the Willandra lakes region]


The main natural hazards to the World Heritage values, specifically, is wind and water where there's no vegetation. So, where you have good vegetation, you don't have a risk of erosion. Where there's no vegetation, you have erosion.


We get a lot of erosion out here from the wind and rain. And, as you can see, there's a lot of pinnacles being made in the road at, at the moment.


One of the greatest risks of those two criteria, the two physical remains, which is the archaeology and the geology, is erosion. And, so, a lot of my job is to try and monitor the impact of erosion and to try and monitor how successful our measurements are in trying to prevent erosion.

So, when we try and cover something up and stop it from eroding, we go back periodically and have a look and see if it actually is working. Most of the World Heritage Area, where you have erosion, you can't grow vegetation there anymore because the topsoil is completely blown away. And, you're left with this kind of nutrient-deficient or nutrient-poor sediment where grass and trees won't grow.

So, the way that we try and stop any further wind erosion or water erosion there is by covering over with shade cloth. And shade cloth acts like a, like a carpet, and where sand will blow along the surface. And, instead of just continuing to erode, it'll hit the shade cloth and fall through the holes in the shade cloth and start to rebuild a dune on top of where erosion was once occurring.

And, then, we also have, within the New South Wales government, there's a science division. And, so, we work very closely with the science division and the landholders to bring cutting edge, best practise contemporary sites into farming practises in the Willandra Lakes to help slow down erosion.

You use local knowledge to better understand the landscape. These land holders have been here, some of them for several generations. And, so, they know the land better than anybody else. And, so, you use that local knowledge of where watering points could go or where we could put fences to protect particular areas.

Other land, many of the strategies we're using to protect the environment is, is exclusion. So, some areas that are really sensitive, we try and keep animals away from those. So, like I said, we have Mungo National Park, which is a conservation zone. We don't have any grazing of sheep here anymore.

But, on the private properties where there's a lot of Merino sheep or Dorper sheep uh, grazing, we either fence off really sensitive areas then keep sheep away from those, those burial sites or, or, campsites. But, we also just try and reduce the amount of impact sheep can have by moving a watering point or moving a, a sheep yard.

So, rather than having a sheep yard in, in a really sensitive area where sheep are getting congregated and trampling the ground, we'll move those sheep yards away from the sensitive area where they can't cause so, much erosion. And same with watering points. Instead of having a watering point in the corner of a paddock where sheep come through and trample the one area until it's completely eroded,




You put about three or four watering points around the whole paddock and that way sheep can spread out and their, their pressure is reduced.


We have fenced off some sensitive sites on our properties to just manage that so, the stock can’t get in around that, and do any damage to those sites.


So, what the major threats to the environment out here.


Well, the biggest threat is rabbits.




At the moment. So, the rabbits are burrowing and, and their burrows collapse, and, then create big, blowout areas where, where, which you can't slow down, then, you can't control that. So, we're working very vigilantly to try and control the rabbit problem in the Willandra. And, we're doing that with landholders in national parks.


And, how are you doing that? How are you controlling?


There's a few ways you can control rabbits. But, most recently, we've participated in the release of a new virus, which, essentially, gives the rabbits the flu, and, then, they, and then they die after about 48 hours and it's the Khaleesi virus. So, that was first released back in 1994, I think. With a 90% success rate in controlling rabbits.


Rabbits are a big impact on the landscape. Goats are a big impact. so, we have Aboriginal goat contractors who come out and they muster goats and take them away. And, it's lovely. Good for them. As well as controlling this pest animal, managing the impacts of visitors too, you know, people, people on the landscape, you know, we have to make sure that they're doing the right thing and that they understand about the environment. And then, you know, we have good practises in that.

Um, in, in these big areas. You know, we're talking about semi-arid landscape. A lot of the work we do is big scale. You know, it's not about replanting or things like that. It's about managing the resources that are there and managing to protect the natural fauna and flora through, through the landscape.

You know, a lot of it then is also about managing fires. So, you know, some fires it's about, about managing to protect, but making sure that we're not having broad-scale fires, you know, through the landscape. So, we have different techniques about fire management.

We've got a number of pest plants and, and they're different, you know, across the landscape. We've got Patterson's Curse or Salvation Jane; some people call it.

[Screen reads: Fact. Pattersons Curse is a broad leaf pest plant]

You know, it can be, you know, broad. It's quite spread broadly in some places. We have Onion weed. We have Wards Weed. We have other pest plants that we need to, to manage and control.

[Screen reads: World Heritage. What is the future of the Heritage area?]


What do you predict as the future for this environment?


Challenges. I predict for the future? Like, climate change is a really big unknown. We know that we're going to go into increased aridity. Which means, we're going to have less vegetation. And environmental scientists, they can tell us with the, with the greatest, you know, certainty that they can, they can muster, what kind of climate that's going to be here in 10 years, 20 years, 30, 40, 50 years’ time. So, they can give us ten-year sequences of what's probably going to happen.

But at the moment, that modelling says it's going to be getting drier, which means, we're going to have more wind erosion. And then, not just more wind erosion, but when it does rain, we're going to have more water erosion because there's, not going to be any ground cover to slow down the water as it's flowing off the dunes and off the lunette.

So, what we need to work out right now is okay, where is that erosion going to happen? Where is it going to be the biggest impact? We need to start focusing on those areas. We need to try and start getting vegetation you know, growing on those areas. Now, before it's just too late to do it.

List of sources and acknowledgements

  • Image: The Willandra lakes region and Lake Mungo National Park. Source image retrieved from

  • Image: UNESCO World Heritage site. Retrieved from

  • Image: Elders on Dune. Provided by Dan Rosendahl

  • Image: Mungo National Park plan of management. Retrieved from link

  • Image: Image series: Mungo track-way site. Provided by Matthew Cupper

  • Image: Erosion control. Provided by Dan Rosendahl

  • Image: Historical photos of Willandra Lakes Region and people. Retrieved from Mungo National Park Conservation Management and Cultural tourism management plan

  • Narration. Voice over by Melissa Ellis, Southern Cross School of Distance Education.


NSW Government Public Schools, Learning Systems, DART connections, Southern Cross School of Education. Virtual Excursions 2017.

[End of transcript]

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