The State Government has signed historic agreements to conserve South Australia’s Ediacaran fossils in the Flinders Ranges.The aim of the conservation agreements is to protect the world’s single greatest record of Ediacaran fossils at Nilpena Station in the Flinders Ranges. The agreements also focus on research, tourism and education, as well as expanding the current Ediacara Conservation Park.
We are gathered this evening on the land of the Adnyamathanha people and I acknowledge their deep spiritual attachment and relationship to this country.
Ladies and Gentlemen.
Outside of South Australia, our wine is famous.
It is a justifiable source of pride and something we can share with the world, from California to London.
Our heritage is intrinsically bound up with this wine story.
We have another part of our heritage that is equally famous, and which we now have a chance to capitalise on.
It is our fossil heritage.
Our Ediacaran fossils are renowned globally.
But of course, we can’t export them!
And people don’t want to just read about them. They want to see for themselves. See up close half a billion years of life.
We have been fortunate in having an extraordinary collection in the South Australian Museum – the gateway for discovering the Ediacara biota.
The installation of the Museum’s Ediacaran Gallery, which was generously supported by so many donors and driven by Mary Lou Simpson, remains a wonderful entry point for South Australians and visitors to learn.
Jim Gehling and Mary Droser have also worked assiduously for decades to ensure that our Ediacaran fossils have a central place in research and recognition as the most important in the world.
Their significance has made the Flinders Ranges the centre of the Ediacaran world.
And what we are embarking on this evening will help make the Flinders Ranges so much more accessible for visitors.
I have been to Nilpena before. So it has been tremendously exciting to come back again today. Not only to see the site again. But also to discuss some of our shared plans, and to recognise the contribution of philanthropy to these plans.
We are securing Nilpena’s future as a park.
I pay tribute to Ross and Jane Fargher for their 30 years of management, fostering research, and having the vision of retaining the fossils on site to share with visitors to the region.
Keeping the Ediacaran fossils as synonymous with the Flinders Ranges will always be part of their legacy.
When people think about Ediacaran fossils, we don’t want them to think Russia or China.
We want them to think Australia and the Flinders Ranges.
Fittingly, the Nilpena land will become part of the Ediacara Conservation Park.
This Park conserves the original sites that Reg Sprigg first visited 73 years ago and recognised the fossils for what they are.
In saying that, I acknowledge the presence here tonight of his children Marg and Doug Sprigg, who have carried on his legacy at Arkaroola for many years.
This in itself is a wonderful thing.
But we are also starting something new here which is very exciting for South Australia.
The creation of the Flinders Ranges Ediacara Foundation is a visionary act.
I congratulate Mary Lou Simpson for her tenacity in sharing the importance of these fossils and advocating for their protection, their research, and for sharing them with the world.
This is what the Foundation that she has created is setting out to achieve.
I also congratulate the Department for Environment and Water for fostering innovation and working to create a model that brings public land management and philanthropy together.
I am absolutely delighted to have signed a memorandum of understanding with the Foundation today.
This records our shared intent to create a very special visitor precinct at Nilpena, and to ensure that the fossils can be shared with visitors for generations to come.
It also records our shared intent to support ongoing research.
Nilpena will be the starting point – fittingly so.
This will be a future that includes many other sites in the Flinders Ranges, to broaden our understanding of the Ediacaran biota of this region, and support landholders and regional communities in managing what they have and benefit from the tourism this can bring.
This new public-private partnership can achieve so much.
It will activate investment and partnerships.
It will ensure our sites are well managed, and create another way to bring people to the region.
Imagine in 2036, at our bicentenary, we have the Flinders Ranges on the World Heritage List.
And a Foundation and partnership creating a legacy that cements the importance of South Australia globally for this fossil research and tourism, and has created tourism products for the Flinders Ranges that ensures its community can thrive and prosper in the years ahead.
This is a big vision. But it needs to be. I thank the people here tonight for having joined us in this vision – at the ground floor, as it were.
Your financial support for the purchase of Nilpena has given the vision life.
I hope that tonight, and when you are at the site tomorrow, you are inspired to become passionate supporters and advocates for what the future can bring.