The Shark Bay area is significant to Aboriginal people because of their long history of use and occupation, and because of their cultural obligations to understand and care for the area. Caring for country is about protecting important sites and the connections between sites, people and environment.

The ties Aboriginal groups have to land are recognised by Native Title, a form of land title determined by the Federal Court upon application by indigenous people. There are three claimant groups in this region; the Malgana, Nanda and Gnulli. Of these, the Malgana and Nanda people’s claim was determined in 2018. Malgana were granted native title over 28,800 square kilometres of land and waters in the Shark Bay area including a large part of the World Heritage Area and the Nanda determination included the southern portion of the World Heritage Area. The Gnulli native title claim has yet to be determined.

The Parks and Wildlife Service acknowledges the understanding and ties of Aboriginal people to their lands and the potential mutual benefits for conservation of working together with Aboriginal people to care for the land.

In Shark Bay, Malgana people are represented by the Yadgalah Aboriginal Corporation. Together with Parks and Wildlife Services, they have collaborated on several conservation management projects with numerous benefits including dugong and turtle research, a major Dirk Hartog Island clean-up funded by Coastwest, and interpretive projects. Malgana were successful in being awarded funding for the State Government’s Aboriginal Ranger Program in 2018 and 2019, an acknowledgement of their strong desire to be directly involved in managing the vast conservation estate in the Shark Bay area.

The State Government’s ‘Plan for Our Parks’ initiative was launched in July 2019 to establish new conservation reserves, create more opportunities for nature-based and cultural tourism, provide enhanced biodiversity conservation and build on Aboriginal joint management.

These initiatives create local economic, training and employment opportunities, as well as generating environmental and cultural outcomes.

Learn some of the local Malgana language.