Working on Country

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Working on Country

Torres Strait Islander sea country ranger exchange

Rangers ready for a boat trip to Nikumaroro Community to view a seaweed farm, Solomon Islands.Photo credit: Troy Stow, TSRA

Rangers ready for a boat trip to Nikumaroro Community to view a seaweed farm, Solomon Islands.
Photo credit: Troy Stow, TSRA

In April 2013, five Torres Strait Regional Authority (TSRA) rangers and their chairman, Joseph Elu, together with traditional owners visited colleagues in the Choiseul Province, Solomon Islands on a ranger exchange visit.

The group travelled to Arnavon Community Marine Conservation Area, which covers three small uninhabitated islands and is a nationally significant nesting area for the endangered hawksbill sea turtle. Since 1995, three local communities have worked with the Solomon Island government and The Nature Conservancy to look after this important marine area.

Mr Joseph Elu said "We share much common ground with the Arnavon communities. We both rely on our marine environment to contribute towards our economic development and sustainability, and at the same time ensure we meet our cultural obligation to care for sea country and all living things."

The Arnavon rangers took their visitors to view a seaweed farm, which provides valuable income for local people. They also demonstrated how they carry out turtle nesting surveys, with two nests hatching during the visit.

Frank Loban, traditional owner from the Western Torres Strait and program manager for sea projects with the Torres Strait Regional Authority said, "Those fellas over there, their technologies are not very advanced - they are simple but very effective".

Two weeks later the Arnavon rangers visited the Torres Strait, and observed how the rangers manage land-based issues, including weeds, feral pigs and fire management. They also met local artists on Badu Island and saw how the stories, legends and management of resources, like the turtle and dugong, are entwined in art.

The Torres Strait Islander rangers arranged a big feast with lots of great local food, and traditional dancing was displayed by the young boys on Badu.

Troy Stow explaining the turtle and dugong maps to the Arnavon rangers, Torres Strait. Photo credit: Ken Orr, TSRA

Troy Stow explaining the turtle and dugong maps to the Arnavon rangers, Torres Strait.
Photo credit: Ken Orr, TSRA

The exchanges were a great success, with plenty of time for sharing ideas, talking with Elders and community leaders in both countries and having fun. "... the sharing of experiences was good for our Rangers, showing us that no matter how much you have you can still get the job done if you have passion, and that was a big outcome from that exchange," said Frank Loban.

These trips were one of six ranger exchanges held during April 2013, leading up to the inaugural World Indigenous Network Conference in Darwin, Northern Territory, Australia from Sunday 26 to Friday 31 May 2013.

Bunya Mountains Murri Rangers and Bunya Mountains Elders Council win National Landcare Award

Bunya Mountains Elders, Mal Collinge and Lurline Henderson accept Landcare Award

Bunya Mountains Elders, Mal Collinge and Lurline Henderson accept Landcare Award

The Bunya Mountains Murri Rangers and Bunya Mountains Elders Council are proud winners of the 2012 National Landcare Award: the Leighton Holdings Indigenous Award. This recognises their efforts in working towards culturally sustainable land use and enhancing and protecting the environment on behalf of the community. The award also celebrates the achievements of the Elders Council and the rangers in projects such as the Kids on Country and Indigenous Heritage Program.

Based in the Bunya Mountains National Park, southern Queensland, the Bunya Mountains Murri Rangers have worked on a number of significant projects, including the burning of the Westcott Balds in the Bunya Mountains National Park. This was the first time in living memory that Traditional Owners had conducted a burn in the region. The rangers also assist with the Kids on Country Schools Curriculum Development Program,by talking with students about the cultural importance of the Bunya Mountains, including the significance of the bunya trees, and its diverse ecosystem.

Uncle Mal Collinge, Bunya Mountains Elders Council member, said "We could not have come this far without the help of the local landholders on and around the mountain. The support of the Working on Country program, BMRG, the Department of Environment and Resource Management, Queensland Parks and Wildlife Services, Condamine Alliance, the Western Downs Regional Council and Traditional Custodians has made a real contribution in preserving the unique cultural, spiritual and natural values of the Bunya Mountains".

The Bunya Mountains Murri Rangers are auspiced by the Burnett Mary Regional Group (BMRG) for Natural Resource Management Limited on behalf of the Bunya Mountains Elders Council.

Award Winning Warru Rangers in APY Lands

Rangers Thomas Tjilya, Timothy Dalby, Eric Abbott, Quinton Lewis & Sherada Stanley at Ernabella airstrip holding Warru in pet packs

Rangers Thomas Tjilya, Timothy Dalby, Eric Abbott, Quinton Lewis & Sherada Stanley at Ernabella airstrip holding Warru in pet packs
Photo: Jasmina Muhic

"Don't fence me in" could be what the newly reintroduced Warru (Black-footed Rock Wallabies) in South Australia's Anangu Pitjantjatjara Yankunytjatjara (APY) Lands are thinking. In July 2012, five Warru were brought from Monarto Zoo and released to the Warru Pintji, a 100Ha predator exclosure, near Ernabella on the APY Lands in South Australia. The Warru were bred through a collaborative captive breeding program partnered by the South Australian Government, Conservation Ark, Anangu Pitjantjatjara Yankunytjatjara and the University of Adelaide. Their arrival brings the total number of re-introduced Warru to 16, since the first release in March 2011.

Proud winners of the 2011 NAIDOC Caring for Country Award, the APY Warru Rangers take care of the animals, maintaining the fence, managing water supply and preventing wildfire while the Warru adapt to life outside the zoo and get ready for their release into the wild. The rangers monitor the survival of Warru through the use of radiotelemetry and annual trapping activities.

Rangers Eric Abbott & Quinton Lewis releasing Warru

Rangers Eric Abbott & Quinton Lewis releasing Warru
Photo: Jasmina Muhic

APY Warru Rangers have been funded under Working on Country since 2009 to manage Warru in extant wild populations near Ernabella and Kalka-Pipalyatjara communities, and to build and manage the exclosure since 2010.

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Tasmanian Aboriginal students participate in Ranger Career Pathway

Students collected a feed of werreners during the career pathway program

Students Bill Wisely, Liam Slater-Brown, Chantelle Jones, Emarra Gower, Danny Johns, Tjumbu Hart and Allan Burgess collected a feed of werreners during the career pathway program.
Photo: Copyright Jillian Mundy

Sixteen Aboriginal high school students from around Tasmania recently participated in a three day career pathway program on Bruny Island, which introduced them to conservation and land management from an Aboriginal perspective.

During the program, the group collected traditional bush tucker and craft materials, toured a mutton bird rookery, visited Aboriginal heritage places and participated in "Gumnuts to Buttons", a cultural awareness activity. Parks and Wildlife Service (PWS) rangers also visited the group. Jess Digney, a Working on Country PWS Aboriginal trainee ranger was able to provide the students with advice and guidance to the steps they need to take to pursue a career in environmental management. Ms Digney, who herself completed year 12, and is in her first year of training as a ranger, encouraged students aspiring to be rangers to stay on at school. "If you look at it in small steps, it's not hard", she suggested.

The three days at Bruny Island kicked off a joint initiative of Tasmania's Parks and Wildlife Service and Aboriginal Education Tasmania to pilot a Junior Ranger program. From their time at Bruny Island, interested students will be offered the opportunity to take part in a 'shadow day' with a PWS ranger to get a practical introduction to their daily routine.

The pilot Junior Ranger program is supported by Working on Country, with Tasmanian Parks and Wildlife Service funded to employ five Working on Country trainee Aboriginal rangers.

Bardi Jawi Rangers win 2011 Western Australia Coastal Award for Excellence

Bardi Jawi Rangers: proud winners of the WA Coastal Award for Excellence

Bardi Jawi Rangers: proud winners of the WA Coastal Award for Excellence
Photo: Bardi Jawi Rangers

The Bardi Jawi Rangers were the proud winners of the 2011 Western Australia Coastal Award for Excellence award in the Indigenous Coastal Achievement category for their development of the "Bardi Jawi Cultural Experience" cultural awareness workshop. This award recognises the outstanding work of the rangers, the Kimberley Land Council, project partners and supporters in their efforts to promote and protect the highly significant natural and cultural values of the Kimberley coastline.

The Bardi Jawi Rangers are based in the small remote community of One Arm Point on the Dampier Peninsula in the spectacular Kimberley region in the north- west of WA. Through the development of "the Bardi Jawi Cultural Experience", the rangers have adopted a positive and practical approach to managing potential impacts of visitors to their country.

Presentations are delivered to commercial tour operators, government departments and local industry service providers in the region about the significance of saltwater country to Indigenous people and the important roles of the rangers in looking after country. The presentations facilitate a greater understanding and respect for Indigenous culture and people, and highlight the roles residents and visitors can play in helping care for country.

Bardi Jawi Rangers delivering the Bardi Jawi Cultural Experience - Cape Leveque WA

Bardi Jawi Rangers delivering the "Bardi Jawi Cultural Experience" - Cape Leveque WA
Photo: Bardi Jawi Rangers

Bardi Jawi Ranger, Dwayne George, said "the project has been a great opportunity to provide knowledge to people who otherwise may not have been able to access this information. We hope that with the knowledge participants gain, they will have a better understanding and be able to help us protect and preserve our culture and the environment. We believe this is a proactive way to manage country".

West Arnhem Land Fire Abatement Project Partners win 2011 Banksia Award

Rangers undertaking dry season burning

Rangers undertaking dry season burning Photo: Peter Cooke, Courtesy of Warddeken Land Management Ltd.

In 2007 we won a Eureka Prize for an innovative idea, but this win in 2011 is more satisfying because it is turning an idea into a sustainable project benefitting country and people on country.
Peter Cooke, Warddeken CEO

Five indigenous ranger groups in the Northern Territory are this year's recipients of the 2011 Banksia Award in the Indigenous Caring for Country category, for their groundbreaking work on a greenhouse gas abatement project in Western Arnhem Land.

The project was inspired by senior Aboriginal landowners in Western and Central Arnhem Land, who commenced discussing ways to manage fire in the warddewardde (sandstone) country in 1997. This led to the establishment of the Western Arnhem Land Fire Abatement (WALFA) project in 2006, with the partners of Warddeken Land Management, Bawinanga Aboriginal Corporation, Jawoyn Association and the Mimarl and Adjumarlal Rangers using strategic dry season burning to prevent late hot dry season fires, to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

The ranger groups undertake their work in remote and challenging conditions, utilising contemporary methods (helicopters and aerial incendiary machines) to emulate traditional patterns of burning. In accepting the award on behalf of the ranger groups, Dean Yibarbuk, a Director of Warddeken Land Management said "The use of two toolboxes-one based in indigenous tradition and the other with roots in science-allowed us to bring wildfire back under control in Western and Central Arnhem Land".

The project set an annual target of 100,000 tonnes of CO2 abatement. It has exceeded these targets, abating 707,000 tonnes of CO2 between 2006-2010. This project addresses the threat of late, hot and frequent fire to this area. Western Arnhem Land is highly significant in the NT for biodiversity, supporting threatened and endemic species, large areas of rainforests, as well a being a region rich in rock art galleries and high cultural values.

Nimbin Rocks Aboriginal Rangers Plant 10,000th Tree

Rangers Keisha Gordon, Linda Phillips and Monica Laurie (left to right) plant the 10,000th tree, a Brush Cherry

Rangers Keisha Gordon, Linda Phillips and Monica Laurie (left to right) plant the 10,000th tree, a Brush Cherry

A day of celebration took place on Wednesday 5th of October 2011 at Nimbin Rocks, in northern NSW, to acknowledge the ongoing achievements of the Nimbin Rocks Aboriginal ranger team. The celebrations began with a community tree planting of the 10,000th 'Working on Country' tree.

The team of 8 rangers, employed by Ngulingah Local Aboriginal Land Council, are now in their third year of working to protect and restore the biodiversity around this highly significant, cultural and sacred site of the Bundjalung Nation.

The new plantings across the two Aboriginal owned properties at Nimbin Rocks are grown from seeds of diverse, endemic species that the ranger team has collected and then propagated in a nursery on site. The trees have been planted along degraded edges of riparian zones; in subtropical rainforest areas; and in moist and dry sclerophyll forests to support environmental restoration.

Waanyi Garawa and Garawa Rangers win Landcare Award

Ranger undertaking prescribed burning on Garawa

Ranger undertaking prescribed burning on Garawa, Aboriginal Land Trust, Courtesy of Waanyi Garawa and Garawa Rangers

Waanyi Garawa and Garawa Indigenous rangers, supported under Working on Country, are proud winners of the 2011 NT Indigenous Landcare Award. The Award was presented on 13 October 2011 for the rangers significant achievements in reinstating a traditional fire regime across Waanyi and Garawa country.

Before commencing their Working on Country project, Waanyi and Garawa Traditional Owners were concerned that their country in the Gulf of Carpentaria was being damaged by weeds, feral animals and large wildfires. Eight years after their first land and sea management meeting, the Waanyi Garawa and Garawa Indigenous ranger groups were funded through Working on Country to employ 7 Indigenous people on a full time basis in late 2008 to manage the 16,000 square kilometre Land Trusts on behalf of Traditional Owners.

Prior to 2008, the Gulf Region had been plagued for at least 15 years by large, frequent, hot wildfires occurring late in the dry season. These fires were up to >18,000 square kilometres in size, burnt across property boundaries, and were having a major impact on the region's biodiversity, cultural sites, infrastructure and pastoral values. During the 2009-2011 early dry season periods (before the end of June), rangers worked hard in close collaboration with the community to reinstate a traditional fire regime. Using a blend of modern methods (e.g. helicopter) and Traditional Ecological Knowledge, the program has been implementing a prescribed burning program of early dry season patch burning.