Over 60,000 years First Nations people have developed knowledge and skills that have strengthened the environmental and cultural well-being of their country. It is this innate wisdom that Indigenous ranger’s harness today to protect the environmental integrity of land and preserve their cultural practices. Across Australia Indigenous ranger groups work hard at tackling many of the environmental issues we face today including threatened species, invasive species, and fire.
Turtle Hatchling - Indigenous rangers protecting turtle nests from threat such as feral animals. Image sourced from National Parks Association of Queensland, 2017.
There are over 120 different ranger groups across Australia. Country Needs People is a non-for-profit alliance of over 41 of these Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander land and sea management organisations. They work with all sides of politics to establish positive outcomes so that Indigenous Ranger programs can continue to grow. Country Needs People calls all Australian decision makers to double funding for Indigenous rangers and Indigenous protected areas (IPA’s), commit to longer term funding and support a long-term national target of 5000 Indigenous land and sea management jobs (Country Needs People, 2020).
Indigenous rangers combine traditional knowledge and with modern scientific techniques to protect and improve the wellbeing of Indigenous communities. Fires are one of the biggest environmental issues our country faces, as we all learnt last summer. With global warming fires are only going to get worse with each new year. Over thousands of years Indigenous people have utilised the power of fire through fire management systems such as patchwork, fire-stick and mosaic burning. These techniques control the intensity of wildfires and promote the health of forests through regrowth. Today the rangers use fire management systems to help reduce the danger and carbon output of wildfires (Country Needs People, 2020).
The Australian Outback is in particular need of Indigenous ranger management. Many Australians do not realise the significance of the Outback, it is one of the very few natural landscapes that remains on our planet where ecological processes function normally. Doctor Barry Traill an ecologist and expert on Outback Australia talks further about the importance of environmental management in the Outback:
“The Outback is one of the very few great natural places left on earth where rivers still run free and wildlife still moves as it has it for millennia. These wild places need to be actively managed by people to stay healthy. Aboriginal people have managed the land with fire for more than 50,000 years and in the modern Outback there are now noxious weeds and invasive feral animals that need to be controlled. Since European invasion and settlement, Indigenous people have been shifted off their home country. The country has become damaged by extreme wildfires and invaded by pests such as feral pigs, camels, goats and donkeys. Huge areas were empty of people managing the country in recent years. But more and more modern Indigenous ranger groups are now being established back on their home countries to maintain culture and environment. This has been hugely successful as there are now more than 2000 rangers.” - Doctor Barry Traill
Indigenous Ranger programs have made an hugely positive impact on Indigenous communities through creating employment, improving health, empowering women, strengthening community ties and reinforcing culture and connection to country. The ranger programs provide thousands of Indigenous people with employment. These jobs are an opportunity to work on country and be recognised for unique skills- using traditional knowledge, along with modern land management techniques to eradicate feral animals and control wildfires. Indigenous rangers work for their local Indigenous organisations, and are therefore embedded in their communities- engaging with elders, working with local schools and organising visits of other traditional owners to country to share cultural knowledge. Rangers often engage in specific cultural activities through managing rock art, protecting waterholes, traditional fish traps and burial sites (Country Needs People, 2020). Creating connections with country and culture is vital to the health of all Indigenous communities.
Indigenous rangers provide an exceptional service to our beautiful country. Yarn recognises the importance of these programs both environmentally and culturally. We hope that Indigenous ranger groups continue to grow so that we can all look towards a more sustainable future. If you would like to support Indigenous rangers, add your voice to the Country Needs People campaign. You can find our more here.