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Working with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples

Indigenous Protected Areas (IPAs)

This program has been helping Indigenous communities voluntarily dedicate their land or sea country as Indigenous Protected Areas (IPAs) since 1997.

Most IPAs are dedicated under International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) Categories 5 and 6, which promote a balance between conservation and other sustainable uses to deliver social, cultural and economic benefits for local Indigenous communities.

IPAs combine traditional and contemporary knowledge into a framework to leverage partnerships with conservation and commercial organisations and provide employment, education and training opportunities for Indigenous people.

IPA projects are supported through a multi-year funding agreement. Many Indigenous organisations also supplement this funding through fee-for service or other income generating activities, as well as support from private sector and philanthropic organisations.

IPAs are recognised as part of the National Reserve System, protecting the nation’s biodiversity for the benefit of all Australians. 

On 1 July 2018, funding for existing IPA projects was transferred from the Natural Heritage Trust to the Indigenous Advancement Strategy.

Indigenous Protected Areas (IPAs) 2020
Dedicated IPAs 78
Total area 74,693,991 hectares
Percentage of National Reserve System 46.53%

Project locations


  • 1997 Indigenous Protected Areas program was established.
  • There are 78 IPAs that make up over 46 per cent of Australia’s National Reserve System, managed for the benefit of all Australians.
  • More than 800 Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people are employed in full-time, part-time and casual jobs under the IPA program.
  • Over 60 per cent of IPAs are managed by Australian Government funded Indigenous ranger groups.
  • On 27 August 2018, the Nantawarrina IPA celebrated its 20th anniversary. It was the first dedicated IPA.

Indigenous Protected Areas Sea Country Program

On 23 April 2021, the Australian Government announced a $100 million investment to protect Australia’s ocean habitats and coastal environments and contribute to the global task of reducing emissions. As a component of this package, the Government has committed $11.6 million over two years to June 2023 to expand Indigenous Protected Areas to include additional Sea Country.

For more information refer to the Department of Agriculture, Water and Environment website at Indigenous Protected Areas and the media release at Joint media release: Australia announces $100 million initiative to protect our oceans

New Indigenous Protected Areas (Natural Heritage Trust)

In the 2017 Budget, the Australian Government committed $1.1 billion for the next phase of the National Landcare Program – this includes an additional $15 million for new IPAs. The new IPA program 2017-2023 is funded by the Department of Agriculture, Water and the Environment, through the Natural Heritage Trust.

Further information on new IPAs can be found on the Department of Agriculture, Water and the Environment’s Indigenous Protected Areas webpage.

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