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LAND & SEA – Thamarrurr Development Corporation
Thamarrurr Development Corporation

Thamarrurr Region – Natural and Cultural Values

The Thamarrurr Region is located in the western ‘Top End’ of the Northern Territory, in the Tropical Savannas Region. It incorporates approximately 18,000 sq km of relatively intact landscapes, including a 240km coastline where sea turtles lay their eggs along the dunes of the expansive beaches. The Moyle River and floodplain provide important habitat for migratory birds, breeding grounds for fish, turtles and crocodiles, and food for grazing animals. Melaleuca and mangrove forests encompass abundant life in the wetland ecosystems, including thousands of geese, other birds and fish. The more elevated savannah and open woodlands are dominated by eucalypts, cycads and native grasses, providing habitat to arboreal mammals and birds.

The Marri-Tjavin IPA was declared in 2010 as Stage 1 of the Thamarrurr Indigenous Protected Area. It covers 712 sq km, including parts of the Moyle and Little Moyle Rivers and adjacent floodplains, and is recognized as an important part of the National Reserve System. Animals of conservation significance include the vulnerable red goshawk and water mouse. The wetlands seasonally support up to 500,000 magpie geese, as well as other migratory water birds, fish, turtles and crocodiles. Traditional Owners and Rangers are seeking support to adequately manage this significant area.

Biodiversity data for the Thamarrurr Region is sparse, including a number of flora and fauna species of conservation significance. Flora species include Armstrong’s Cycad Cycasarmstrongii, Native Walnut Endriandralimnophilaand Ground OrchidZeuxineoblonga, all listed as Vulnerable with the NT EPA. Fauna species include Flatback Turtle Natatordepressus, Olive Ridley Turtle Lepidochelysolivacea, Emu Dromaiusnovaehollandiae and Northern Quoll Dasyurushallucatus, also listed as Vulnerable in the NT and Endangered in the case of the Northern Quoll.There is also a wealth of cultural knowledge around wildlife, and while some is passed on to future generations and being recorded, there are aspects of this knowledge being lost.

The Traditional Owners of the Thamarrurr Region are spiritually linked to their land.The Region encompasses homelands for 20 clan groups, with thousands of cultural sites, including ceremony and sacred sites, rock art and stone arrangements, recreational places, and associated heritage and values. In addition, the land provides food and other resources, and Traditional Owners have rights and responsibilities to their Country.

Traditional Owners of the Region consistently express the fundamental importance of being on Country for spiritual, cultural, social, economic and environmental reasons. It is however, increasingly challenging for people to access their Country, let alone live and work there. These challenges are associated with lack of transport, poor road conditions, family and social problems, the demands of contemporary Community life and restrictions of current work programs. In addition, people need to regularly access the range of services centralised at Wadeye, including shopping, health, education, employment, law and order.

People’s connection with and yearning for Country cannot be overstated and, despite the challenges of access, manyTraditional Owners regularly live on or visit their Country. Traditional Owners are working to protect and maintain Country and Culture, including:

  • Local control, belonging and purpose;
  • Intergenerational transfer of knowledge and skills associated with Country and Culture;
  • Fostering respect and enthusiasm by younger generations for culture and traditions;
  • Management of cultural sites;
  • Hunting and gathering practices, consumption of bush foods and associated healthy lifestyle choices;
  • Meaningful “work” on Country and addressing associated socio – economic issues;
  • Implementing traditional fire management practices, including patchwork burning in the early dry season; and
  • More active land management strategies.


While the landscapes of the Thamarrurr Region are considered relatively intact, there are significant threats from exotic weeds, feral animals, wild fires, illegal access to areas, future developments and climate change. Each of these threats has potential impacts on the biodiversity and cultural heritage of the Region, some of which are already evident. Traditional Owners and Indigenous Rangers continue to have a vital role to play in remote Australia.