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ABC Capricornia: Indigenous ranger teaches lost skills to youth

From ABC Capricornia, Alice Roberts, 9 June 2015.

A central Queensland ranger says he is passing down valuable knowledge to Indigenous youth to ensure it is kept for future generations.

Gidarjil Development Corporation senior ranger Symeon Marou is training four young people in Gladstone to become full-time rangers in the region who will be tasked with looking after coastal and inland waterways.

The former Queensland Parks and Wildlife Service officer has spent the last five years looking after more than 50 parks between Bundaberg and Gladstone, before joining Gidarjil six weeks ago.

He says it is critical that traditional Indigenous stories and skills are not lost.

Mr Marou says the young people he teaches are often surprised by what they have learned, including identifying whether mangroves are healthy and how that affects marine life.

"They're talking to their mates about things that they probably thought they'd never be sitting around talking about," he said.

Mr Marou is the youngest of eight boys and says he grew up in the region in a family where the traditional way of life was the normality.

"Being out on country was always something that we had done, whether it be out on the water fishing or hunting, inland getting roos or porkies, it was just something we were always doing," he said.

"I just thought this is something that needs to be passed on and I just hope that everything I know, I can pass onto the next generation."

He says many of the young people he teaches are still in awe of what they have achieved.

Mr Marou says he has taken students fishing to determine the types of fish in the waterways, taught them to identify mangrove species and shown them how to conserve bushland.

"They still think it's unrealistic that they're in the position where they are today," he said.

Once they have graduated, the trainees will become full-time employees at Gidarjil.

Mr Marou says he hopes his role will help build the profile of Indigenous locals in the community.

"Sometimes people look down on you but it's just a matter of picking your lip up and giving them a smile and keeping on," he said.

"If we keep pushing towards our goal, hopefully the wider community will see the positive side to what we're doing and hopefully they'll support us in the end."

He says many skills, like hunting and fishing, are being lost in Indigenous communities but he hopes that programs, like the one being offered at Gidarjil, will change that.

"I've got younger children as well, so I 'd like to see the guys that I'm training up now train up my children at some stage; that's how far I'm looking down the track," he said.

"At the end of it all, I'd like to sit back and have the kids bring me food, bring me fish and crabs," he added.