An Indigenous Protected Area (IPA) is an area over which the traditional Indigenous owners have entered into a voluntary agreement to promote biodiversity and conserve cultural resources in line with international standards. An IPA brings together traditional Indigenous knowledge and modern science for effective land management. Indigenous Protected Areas can include land or sea, and can include other land other than indigenous owned land, by agreement.
Indigenous Rangers are local Indigenous people working under the guidance and approval of elders and according to a local work plan usually developed by negotiation with the federal government to address local and national environmental and cultural management priorities. They often work in Indigenous Protected Areas but also can work on Indigenous owned land or other land or sea by agreement. Groups are typically organised through local or regional Indigenous organisations and have their own strong cultural connections expressed often through their logo and knowledge of local land and sea ownership and traditional rights and interests.
While Indigenous Rangers and Indigenous Protected Areas can draw on a range of funding sources the core support for these highly successful programs comes from the Federal Government. This provides a backbone of certainty and flexible funding arrangements that can be tailored to local circumstances and environmental and cultural priorities at the same time as meeting national and regional priorities for environmental management. It is this stable core of support combined with committed indigenous leadership on the ground that has made the programs a major success. This is a highly positive investment for Australia and one that can bring many more benefits if it can be secured over the long term and grown to create more jobs and opportunities.
Indigenous Ranger programmes have economic, health, and environmental benefits.
The economic benefits include the creation of employment and training opportunities in remote and otherwise economically-marginalised communities. Many groups engage in Certificate level study in Conservation and Land Management. Savings occur from reduced welfare payments as people find paid work on their country.
Health benefits include greater rates of exercise and lower rates of obesity or other diseases. Rangers experience greater self-esteem and confidence as a consequence of their role.
The environment benefits from increased management of exotic threats like pigs and cats and the careful management of threatened species like the Greater Bilby. Over 70% of projects are tackling particular weeds which pose a significant threat to Australia's ecology.
Indigenous women are a vital part of Indigenous Ranger programmes, making up around 25% of the total workforce. By caring for their country, Indigenous women are carrying on a cultural responsibility which has been passed down by elders until today.
Indigenous women rangers work alongside men in some regions, but in others they have unique responsibilities such as caring for places significant for women. They do ecological research, land management, and seed propagation, as well as mapping and maintaining women's cultural heritage sites.
By working as Indigenous Rangers, women are continuing to look after their country as they have for tens of thousands of years.
We support grassroots calls for a big increase in funding and security for these programs. Only by investing in stable, secure Ranger programs and Indigenous Protected Areas can we keep this wonderful success story for local communities and our precious environment going. As the request from frontline groups says we need:
A long term target of at least 5000 Indigenous Ranger jobs across Australia if we are to bring the scale of environmental management our country needs.
A shorter term plan to work with local Indigenous groups to double the amount of funding for Ranger jobs on Country and Indigenous Protected Areas.
Long term and secure contracts that let local organisations plan for a healthy and growing future.
- A long term commitment to recognise the success of these programs in allowing people to protect country, go from welfare to work, support their families and sustain communities.