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Indigenous rangers are closing the gap in remote communities

Closing the gap on Indigenous disadvantage is being achieved through the work of Indigenous rangers and Indigenous-owned and managed parks.

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Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull reported on Closing the Gap targets in Parliament today: emphasising his focus on Aboriginal leaders' call to "do things with us not to us"

An alliance of 16 Indigenous ranger and traditional owner organisations today said that while there is still a long way to go, ranger jobs in particularly remote communities are creating hope and opportunity.

On behalf of the Country Needs People alliance, Pew Charitable Trusts partnerships manager Patrick O’Leary says there is a pressing need to recognise programs that are succeeding in Indigenous Australia and invest in that success.

“There is a lot of failure being discussed but Indigenous rangers and Indigenous protected areas are shining lights – its vital that the nation and the government also focuses on what's working and what people really want,” Mr O’Leary said.

A socio-economic study commissioned by the Country Needs People alliance (found Indigenous land and sea management programs are closing the gap by: 

  1. Providing community mentors, educational opportunities and leadership.
  2. Providing meaningful work, training and career paths.
  3. Empowering individuals with confidence and better mental health.
  4. Encouraging healthy lifestyles through physical activity.
  5. Reducing incarceration and incidences of alcohol and substance abuse.

“Indigenous ranger jobs and Indigenous protected areas are not only successfully protecting Australia’s natural heritage, they are transforming the lives of Indigenous people and communities,” Mr O’Leary said.

“Indigenous ranger groups are reporting that people are queueing up for ranger jobs.   

“These jobs are key stepping stones into the workforce for many people, and peer reviewed studies have clearly shown that people involved in ranger work have better health statistics on measures like obesity, cardiovascular disease, psychological health and overall well-being.”

“We also know that this work benefits not only the individuals and their families but the communities they live in, reducing alcohol related incidents and reducing rates of incarceration as a result.”

Indigenous rangers provide role models in many communities and are frequently involved in education programs through schools. Work undertaken by Indigenous rangers and through Indigenous Protected Areas involves management of fire, feral animals and invasive weeds.