Environment SA News

Proposed protections for sacred salt lake

Preserving cultural significance and increasing visitor safety are among proposals to help Traditional Owners manage one of the Outback’s most popular attractions.

Proposed protections for sacred salt lake

Public consultation commenced today on a new management plan for Kati Thanda-Lake Eyre National Park in the state’s Far North.

It is South Australia’s second largest park at more than 1.3 million hectares and is co-managed by the state government and Arabana Aboriginal Corporation.

Covering about 9,500km2, Lake Eyre/Kati Thanda is a registered site under the Aboriginal Heritage Act 1988, and famous for infrequent and spectacular flooding.

It is primarily a dry lake bed that, on average, experiences a small flood every three years, a large flood every decade, and fills an average of only four times in 100 years.

The Arabana people are the native title holders of the lake, which is considered in lore to be sacred and dangerous to visit without the guidance of cultural authority.

This knowledge, and responsibility for the safety of park visitors, has been passed down through dreaming stories from Elders.

The draft Kati Thanda-Lake Eyre National Park management plan includes a proposal to not allow any recreational access to the lake bed.

The change will ban visitors from entering the lake bed on foot without permission.

Director, National Parks Programs with the National Parks and Wildlife Service Jason Irving said the state government recognises that Lake Eyre/Kati Thanda is a special and sacred site to the Arabana people.

“We are committed to genuine partnership with Arabana people through our co-management agreement,” Mr Irving said.

“The request for visitors not to enter a sacred cultural site is made in recognition and respect for Arabana culture, and to ensure the safety of visitors.”

Mr Irving said other recreational activities, including swimming, driving, boating and landing aircraft, are already restricted under the National Parks and Wildlife Act 1972.

“People are still encouraged to enjoy the park and view the spectacular lake bed from designated visitor areas or from the air,” Mr Irving said.

Chairwoman of the Arabana Aboriginal Corporation Bronwyn Dodd said Kati Thanda is a very special place of cultural significance and great importance to Arabana people.

“We are proud to share this part of our Country but we urge you to respect our Ularaka (stories), lore and culture and not enter the lake,” Ms Dodd said.

“We have a responsibility to look after the lake and in turn it looks after us. Preservation of this lake is also the preservation of our culture.”

Several other cultural sites around the state, including Koonalda Caves in the Nullarbor Wilderness Protection Area, Sacred Canyon in Ikara-Flinders Ranges National Park, and Ngaut Ngaut Conservation Park, welcome visitors but have strict rules around entry.

The public can provide feedback on the proposed Kati Thanda-Lake Eyre National Park management plan until Friday, 19 July by visiting www.yoursay.sa.gov.au/kati-thanda-lake-eyre-national-park.