We acknowledge the Aboriginal people of the Noongar nation as the Traditional Owners of the land through which these trails pass.

Consulting Traditional Owners in Trail Design


It’s National Aboriginal and Islanders Day Observance Committee (NAIDOC) week, which celebrates the history, culture and achievements of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples.

This is an opportunity to look at how the Department of Biodiversity, Conservation and Attractions (DBCA) works with traditional owners to better inform trail design and national park management.

Staff and Training

DBCA has demonstrated over many years that it is serious about engaging and consulting with traditional owners when managing trails, national parks and the activities within those parks.

In the Kensington Head Office alone there are 113 staff who identify as Aboriginal, 33 females and 80 males. There are also 600 Aboriginal rangers, 53% of whom are female, working on country in national parks and marine parks all over Western Australia and the State Government has just announced an increase in funding of up to $60m for this very successful program. You can read more about DBCA’s Aboriginal Ranger Program HERE

In addition to the Aboriginal staff DBCA employs, all staff are required to complete the Department’s Cultural Awareness training. The landscape architects in DBCA’s Recreation Planning Design Unit (RPDU) have also been taking fortnightly sessions to learn about consultation and engagement best practice in planning, design and procurement with traditional owners. The most effective community and traditional owner consultation happens at the start of a project in the design process.

Aboriginal heritage surveys are now routine amongst the other supporting surveys, like flora and fauna, that must be done for projects undertaken in our parks and reserves.


Aboriginal Engagement on Trail Projects on the South Coast

Here are recent examples of engaging with and consulting the traditional owners in the South Coast Region, which contains 14 National Parks and 150 Nature Reserves covering 2.5 million hectares plus another seven million hectares of unallocated Crown Land (UCL) for which DBCA has responsibility.

Torndirrup Improvement Project – The Gap Phase 2

The new Aboriginal Engagement Coordinator (Wagyl Kaip) recently took a number of elders out to the Gap for an initial consultation and determined that a formal cultural survey was not required but an onsite monitor was for the proposed works, which include a toilet block and increased parking for this very popular site.

South Coast Marine Park

A number of DBCA staff recently attended the Aboriginal community consultation sessions held at Bremer Bay CRC over several days. The aim was to uncover and understand some of the cultural values held by the traditional owners so they can ensure they are recognised in the Joint Management Plan.

Valley of the Giants

DBCA staff have hosted six on country trips with 12 traditional owners to discuss the proposal for new walking and cycle trails within the park. In addition, they have held three traditional owner site inspections for the approval of the proposed trail alignments and construction.

William Bay National Park

Consultation with the traditional owners was held to determine a concept plan and on-country visits were held to determine an appropriate trail corridor. A team of five Aboriginal rangers assisted in archaeological site surveys while the route was workshopped and approved by 20 elders.

While the trail was under construction, five Aboriginal monitors were constantly onsite inspecting soil disturbance activities.

Torndirrup National Park

DBCA held seven onsite visits with Aboriginal rangers and elders, represented by 12 individuals, to inspect the proposals for new walk and cycle trails within the park at sites such as Bald Head, Stony Hill, Sharp Point and the Albany Windfarm.

Discussions have been conducted with the local Minang elders about the design and interpretation opportunities for park improvements and storytelling.

The Bald Head construction contractor has employed two local Minang men to help with constructing the walkway surfaces and erosion control.

A traditional owner site inspection was held on the proposed Munda Biddi Windfarm trail realignment where artifact surveys were conducted for approval and site avoidance.

Porongurup National Park

Three traditional owner site visits were held for proposed new walk trails within the park at sites such as Castle Rock, Nancy’s Peak, Devil’s Slide and the Tree in a Rock recreation site.

Traditional owners’ discussions have been conducted to engage local Minang elders on the design opportunities for park improvement and storytelling.

There are two traditional owners’ representatives on the Porongurup Trails Reference Group.

Additionally, one-on-one consultation sessions were held with six individual traditional owners regarding the Porongurup Trails Master Plan.

John Forrest National Park

Collaboration with traditional owners is taking place in other regions as well.

Aboriginal Heritage surveys have been undertaken that inform the designs and concept of the redevelopment of the visitor infrastructure in John Forrest National Park just east of Perth.

Four traditional owner workshops have been conducted to engage the local Whadjuk elders on the design opportunities for the park improvements, storytelling and commercial business opportunities.

A smoking ceremony was held on site to commence engagement of the project team and the consultants at the startup meeting.

Traditional owner site visits were held for proposed new walk and cycle trails within the park.

Consultation was held with the traditional owners on the two waterfall area improvements, including interpretation for a shelter and the gnammas (rock pools) documented during surveys nearby.

NEW Explore Parks website

DBCA has just launched the brand new Explore Parks website which further demonstrates how we are continuing to engage with Aboriginal people across the State and promote cultural awareness.

  • The website features traditional owner language groups at the top of the page under the park or attraction name.
  • There is a traditional owner section at the bottom of the page for parks that has more traditional owner information available.
  • The Park Finder map has a filter to search by traditional owner language groups.
  • On the Experience page, parks and attractions have been grouped by places where visitors can experience Aboriginal culture.

The Parks and Wildlife Service of the Department of Biodiversity, Conservation and Attractions is extremely proud to work closely with traditional owners through engagement and joint management of national parks.

 © Trails WA Projects 2022