What is the Great Western Woodlands?
In the heart of Western Australia’s Outback lies the Great Western Woodlands (GWW), the largest intact temperate woodland left on the planet.
It is 16 million hectares of natural ecosystems that lie east of the Wheatbelt, extend north to the mulga scrubland north of Kalgoorlie and east to the Nullarbor Plain.
The Woodlands are at the heart of Western Australia, they are a place of community for many local residents as well as home to an amazing variety of native flora and fauna.
The Traditional Custodians whose lands cover the Great Western Woodlands have one of the longest continuous connections to Country of any culture on Earth. Their rights as Indigenous people require recognition and their involvement in ownership and management of the area is crucial. Much of the Woodlands is now Native Title land, putting Indigenous people in a strong position to look after the area as they have done for thousands of years.
The Woodlands also have a vital role in assisting Australia meet our (greenhouse gas) emission reduction targets necessary for a thriving future. Maintaining the vast carbon store in the vegetation and soils of the area is fundamental to Australia’s attempts to curb damaging climate change.
Put simply this region is locally, nationally and internationally significant and is irreplaceable.
“The opportunity I think we have is to care for this woodland as though we’re here to stay for centuries, if not thousands of years.”
– Professor Stephen Hopper
Click to enlarge map.
Australia’s secret nature wonderland
- Largest intact temperate woodland left on Earth ( = 16 million hectares)
- Twice the size of Tasmania/Same size as England
- “From the Wheatbelt to the Nullarbor” – Our unique Outback forest
- Vast carbon store – over 900,000,000 tonnes of carbon stored
- Landscape nearly 300 million years old
- Refuge for endangered birds and mammals
- Australia’s Eucalypt heartland (over 30% of all Australia’s eucalypts)
- Wildflower wonderland (over 20% of all Australia’s native plants)
- Living Aboriginal culture
- Home to the ancient and magnificent Helena Aurora Range
- Historic local communities – Kalgoorlie, Coolgardie and Norseman
The woodland region currently named the Great Western Woodlands is the traditional country of eight Indigenous language groups.
In accordance with the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples 2008 (Articles 31 and 32), decisions on the future status, management and use of GWW requires consultation with and agreement of the Traditional Owners.
What’s at stake?
The Great Western Woodlands is at risk of suffering a ‘death by a thousand cuts’ – largely due to the fact that most of it has no conservation status at all. Governments are slowly coming to see the importance of the Woodlands, but have so far failed to adequately recognise, protect and manage this region, or acknowledge the opportunity for new and sustainable industries based on conserving the Woodlands.
Without status or care at a government level, the Woodlands’ biodiversity and uniqueness continues to be under threat:
An increasing number of large, high intensity wildfires, have resulted in woodland areas being burnt too frequently to allow proper ecological recovery. Research is showing that long unburnt areas are vital to maintain species and habitats.
The presence of introduced pests is also threatening the amazing biodiversity of the region. Weeds suffocate native plants and alter fire behaviour, while feral animals like donkeys, goats, camels, foxes and cats damage habitats and kill and maim native fauna.
Poorly planned large-scale infrastructure developments such as roads, powerlines and barrier fences present a serious threat of extensive clearing and fragmentation of the Woodlands.
Lack of recognition means the wider WA community remains unaware of the incredible natural beauty and cultural richness of the area, holding back the development of sustainable industries such as carefully planned tourism.
Our vision for the Great Western Woodlands: A healthy intact Woodland region managed with its Traditional Owners, valued by local communities and free from the threat of large scale destructive development.
What can you do
The more people who understand the significance of the woodlands, the better.
We’re committed to raising awareness about the Great Western Woodlands and the threats it faces locally, nationally and internationally and we need your help to build that awareness.
Help raise the profile of the Woodlands by:
- Visiting the region and supporting local communities with sustainable tourism, for more information on camping trips to Helena Aurora Range click here,
- Or by taking a trip through the Wheatbelt, through to the heart of the woodlands in Norseman via the Granite & Woodlands Discovery Trail
- Informing friends and family of the area, you’d be surprised how few Western Australians know about this area, right in their backyard
- Contacting your local Member of Parliament to raise your concerns about the lack of formal recognition and management of the region.
- Joining the local volunteer campaign centre to work on your own Woodlands promotion project, like film nights, art exhibitions, community stalls + more
- Donating to the campaign
If travelling there – take good care
- Respect the land; learn about the natural and cultural values of the region; visit Aboriginal cultural centres in Kalgoorlie, Norseman and other centres.
- Have good maps; tell someone where you are going and when you’ll be back.
- Keep to roads and established tracks – NO bushbashing!
- Avoid lighting fires – especially over summer (when it’s banned!). Use fuel stoves.
- Carry out what you take in.