The head of the Kimberley Land Council says the co-design of new marine parks in northern WA should be the benchmark for similar processes in other government departments.

The Bardi Jawi Garra, Mayala and Maiyalam Marine Parks announced on Sunday will cover more than 600,000 hectares of the Buccaneer Archipelago near Broome and Derby.

Day-to-day management of the marine parks, the first to be co-designed with Traditional Owners, will be closely aligned with work undertaken by local ranger teams who are part of the KLC’s Kimberley Ranger Network.

Kimberley Land Council chief executive Tyronne Garstone said the marine parks demonstrated how true co-design between government and Traditional Owners could be achieved.

“Really for us the process has been critical, we recognise that the process has been just as good as the outcome,” he said.

New WA marine parks give Traditional Owners chance to protect Country and culture

“It is the first time in the state’s history that they have used Indigenous knowledge at the core of the design of a marine park.

“It could have been done legally without consulting Traditional Owners, however they have come to the Traditional Owners and have engaged, and the Traditional Owners have felt like decision makers in this process, around cultural zones and heritage sites.”

Mr Garstone said the experience contrasted starkly with the West Australian government’s handling of heritage protection reform.

He said the co-design of the parks meant important cultural areas, heritage and marine life would be protected in a way which enabled customary recreational and commercial use.

“There were genuine partnerships, mutual respect, native title holders were listened to, and feedback that cultural zones should be implemented throughout the marine park was taken on-board,” he said.

A scene from the KLC’s recent marine parks celebration.

“This is a historic moment for the Bardi and Jawi, Mayala and Dambimangari people who have fought hard to secure native title recognition and continue to fight for protection of their land and sea country.”

WA Aboriginal Affairs Minister Tony Buti said the sea country safeguarded by the creation of the three marine parks will ensure cultural practises that have existed for thousands of years remain protected.

“The work Traditional Owners have done in co-designing the marine parks will ensure ongoing preservation of culturally significant areas,” he said.

WA Environment Minister Reece Whitby said the region was home to an array of unique corals, whales and dugongs.

KLC Land and Sea Management Unit manager Daniel Oades said with visitors to the Dampier Peninsula expected to double in the next decade, management plans were important.