WHY KIDS ARE LOOKING UP TO INDIGENOUS RANGERS
Indigenous rangers are at the forefront of nature protection in Australia. Their connection to country, geography, culture and skills make Indigenous Rangers the perfect candidates to safeguard native plants and animals, control feral species and invasive weeds, reduce dangerous wildfires and maintain tourism and cultural sites.
Whist the work of these rangers helps to combat environmental risks all around Australia, it also brings great benefits to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities: rangers are seen as role models, their work strengthens culture and empowers women, and communities report better mental and physical health.
“You see a big change in people, says Phil Rist, CEO of the Girringun Aboriginal Corporation.
“They [the rangers] are proud to look after their country, to have a meaningful job. But it’s not one-way traffic. The environment benefits in a big way also.”
On the Great Barrier Reef, 40 new Indigenous rangers have recently been brought on board to help Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority [GBRMPA] officials monitor remote parts of the World Heritage Area.
New GBRMPA rangers Wilfred Peter and Jessica Vakameilalo / Photo: ABC North QLD David Chen
“It is a massive boost in resources for us, explains Peta Ross from GBRMPA.
“While they’re not formally government staff […], it is a massive resource on the ground.”
Funded through a variety of mechanisms but predominantly through the Australian Government’s Working on Country Program, the Indigenous Ranger program has created 2,500 new jobs for Indigenous Australians all across Australia.
“I am never going to give up the ranger's job for another job, says Central Land Council ranger Barbara Petrick.
“You can chuck a million dollars at me, I don't want that, because my land is more precious to me than anything else.”
“I'm a ranger for life. This is my favourite job and I always work hard to protect our country and help my community,” says Fabian Gaykamangu, Ranger from the Crocodile Islands.
But it’s not just the current ranger jobs that make this program so special. Partnershps with research, education, philanthropic and commercial organisations ensure that skills and knowledge are passed on and that other jobs and opportunities develop from the Indigenous Ranger program for the coming generations.
“When a school child looks around their community and sees proud, strong adults working as Indigenous Rangers that's incredibly valuable to their education and motivation,” notes Chris Sarra, Indigenous Education Leader and 2016 NAIDOC Person of the Year.
“[When] the young ones are looking at the ranger program, they're saying yeah, I want to be there, I want to be like that, Dean Yibarbuk, Senior Ranger from Warddeken Land Management adds.
“[They’re saying] when I grow up I want to be a ranger and look after my country.”
For more information about the Indigenous Ranger program, visit the Country Needs People page.
For more information about how ecotourism aligns with respect for Indigenous culture, please visit the Ecotourism Australia Respecting our Culture certification page.
[Cover image from Country Needs People]