The Munga-Thirri-Simpson Desert, Australia’s Newest National Park

After a decade-long campaign, the Munga-Thirri-Simpson Desert has been declared Australia’s newest and largest National Park. The National Park lies within the Kati Thanda/Lake Eyre basin of South Australia, spanning 3.6 hectares. This is double the size of the Kakadu National Park, and four times the size of Yellowstone National Park in the United States (The Guardian, 2021).

Munga-Thirri-Simpson Desert. Courtesy of Flinders Ranges and Outback, 2021.

Since 2010, the Wilderness Society has campaigned to protect this precious part of Australia from exploitation of fossil fuel companies. Tri-Star Energy, an oil company based out of Tennessee in the US, leased part of the area with the intention to explore for gas in 2020. Luckily, the long and hard campaign finally paid off, and now the area is completely protected from oil companies (The Guardian, 2021). In a press statement to the ABC News, the Wilderness Society’s South Australian director, Peter Owen (2021), elaborated on the importance of protecting this Country:

"For over a decade the Wilderness Society has been advocating for a conservation corridor in the heart of Australia, allowing endangered animals and plants to move and adapt to a rapidly changing climate."

Munga-Thirri-Simpson Desert. Courtesy of the Department of Environment and Water South Australia, 2021.

The Munga-Thirri-Simpson Desert is a sanctuary for more than 900 species of plants and animals, including the ecologically-important animals such as Thorny Devils, Dingoes and Wedgetail Eagles. During the wet season, the desert comes to life. Rain fills the Kati Thanda and the surrounding dunes, creating temporary wetlands and causing native flowers to bloom (The Guardian, 2021). The lake becomes a breeding site, teeming with several species of migratory birds who are tolerant of salinity and have travelled hundreds of kilometres to reach this spot (ABC News, 2016).

Thorny Devil. Courtesy of Adelaide Now, 2021.

The Munga-Thirri-Simpson Desert is also a place of importance for Indigenous people. The Native Title Holders of this area are the Wangkangurru Yarluyandi people, however several First Nations groups maintain a connection to this Country that stretches back for tens of thousands of years. It is a testament to their care for Country that this incredible desert environment has remained so pristine. In an interview with The Guardian, Peter Owen (2021) said that he hopes this legacy can be continued:

“The Simpson desert is a huge, intact desert system with some of the longest parallel dune systems in the world. It’s an intact wilderness and a credit to the custodianship of First Nations people over thousands of years. This type of [environment] is not common in the world anymore.”

The Munga-Thirri-Simpson National Park is an incredible win for environmental advocates and First Nations Custodians, and it is now a place that can be enjoyed by all Australians. As we can see, protecting Australia’s incredible ecosystems and places of cultural significance is so crucial. Here at Yarn, we hope that further pieces of Country can be protected so future generations have the opportunity to fully experience the cultural depth and beauty of Australia.