Arakwal awarded Green List honour

Dulcie Nicholls, elder of the Byron Bay Arakwal people, reached out her hand and embraced a delegation from IUCN to her home. The didgeridoo thundered into action and the New South Wales air was filled with a riot of energy and colour - a typically passionate display of cultural heritage as the spiritual connection was made.

But this was no ordinary visit to New South Wales, Australia for the IUCN contingent.

It was a moment in the history of this sacred land as it became the first official IUCN Green List of Protected Areas site on the planet. The international team of IUCN and the local park New South Wales staff as well as a number of international journalists were visiting the area to bestow a new honour to the people involved in enhancing, managing and maintaining the natural and cultural values of the area.

The Green List of Protected Areas is a new award based on a global standard for success in conservation efforts, with the 2014 achievers unveiled the day before at a special event in Sydney at the IUCN World Parks Congress.

The visit was to bring the scheme, and the recognition, direct to the men and women involved on the ground. Prof. Marc Hockings, WCPA lead on the IUCN Green List , hailed the achievement of Arakwal National Park and Cape Byron State Conservation Area, “The award is just recognition for the pioneering spirit and work ethic of the staff, management and local volunteers”.

Sue Walker, Manager of Arakwal National Park and Cape Byron State Conservation Area, echoed these sentiments and added that the leadership role of the Byron Bay Arakwal people had now been recognised internationally. “We were the first protected area to be announced for the global award, and we then shared the stage with representatives from countries such as China and Colombia. More countries then made commitments to work towards the IUCN Green List Standard for protected areas, and I am proud that our pioneering efforts have inspired such global commitment to good governance and effective management.”

The Arakwal people have an established connection with the area now known as Byron Bay that dates back at least 22,000 years. The Arakwal National Park and Cape Byron State Conservation Area are considered exceptional because their management:

  • Recognises and involves traditional owners in managing and working on their Country;
  • Protects nationally significant biodiversity values;
  • Conserves iconic historic heritage features such as Cape Byron lighthouse;
  • Offers award-winning educational programmes, including the 'Dolphin Dreaming';
  • Provides high quality recreational facilities for the local community and visitors, including tourist accommodation;
  • Receives sustainable, long-term financing from ecotourism and educational programs.

Dulcie Nicholls and the Elders of the Byron Bay Arakwal people are now benefitting from their long-term efforts to secure rights and recognition, and cultural activities. Arakwal people make up over 65% of the protected area staff, and are enjoying a strong cultural renewal through supporting a range of programs and activities.

They are now recognised by IUCN as a benchmark and model for other protected areas across New South Wales, Australia, and globally.

It was a special day in the history of the area and even long after the IUCN contingent had said an emotional farewell and the thumming of the didgeridoo had faded into the crisp night air, the Elders past and present can breathe more easily in the knowledge that the Arakwal country is part of the Green List for Protected Areas.

For more information, please contact James Hardcastle at


Additional press links on the IUCN Green List:

'Green List' awards world's top conservation sites

Byron first on international list for environmental management

Green List promotes best conservation areas

El parque nacional de los humanos que nacieron como fauna

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