Published: 2 Jun 2016
Our history, our story, our future. The incredible story of Indigenous rangers is a beautiful representation of the theme for this year's Reconciliation Week. To celebrate, we're sharing stories show how Indigenous rangers are harnessing history, tradition and culture to protect culture and build a strong future for Indigenous communities.
I was born in the bush in 1940. I grew up here, got married and walked with my husband and our families all through the Stone Country of West Arnhem Land. I know all the places here. I know all the plants. I know all the animals.
This ranger program and our IPA make me proud.
I work for Warddeken as an expert cultural consultant and I advise rangers how to do their jobs the right way: customary burning, where to look for certain species of special rock country animals, and that sort of thing.
I also make sure Warddeken ranger work takes into account sacred sites and we are keeping our ancestors happy.
You can see the results of rangers applying their customary knowledge to land management. Where I live at Kabulwarnamyo, the community has developed. It has become a big centre with work available for people and its influence is spreading out to other communities across the Arnhem Plateau as we continue to grow. Now the younger people are living and working here.
I want to see this program continue; it allows young people to continue what our old people before us passed down to us.
- Mary Kolkkiwarra (letter translated from Kunwinjku)
My name is Alysha Taylor I am 20 years old, and this is my story.
In my early years of growing up in Parnngurr, I formed a close connection with my grandparents Waka & Karnu Taylor. My parents and family moved to Port Headland & Bidyadanga, and eventually, we moved to Perth.
While living in Perth, I completed Year 12, then completed further study in Engineering and Aviation. I was at the stage in life where I was applying for jobs and attending interviews; I even applied to get my own home. Even though things were going ok I felt something was missing; my spirit was not happy.
Then I heard that my grandparents were getting old and not in the best of health. I just knew I needed to go home, to my place of growing, where I belong. My grandparents lived alone, but now they have me, someone to care for them, cook, clean and help around the house. This makes them feel happy and pleased their granddaughter has come home.
My grandmother Karnu told me about the women’s ranger program with KJ. Being able to get a job helped me to make the decision to come back to the community. There are not many opportunities for young Aboriginal girls to get jobs out in their country, in remote communities. Unfortunately, lots of young girls these days are not doing much and are not learning about their country.
I love everything about my grandparents.
Coming home means they can now pass on all their stories and knowledge about their country to me. Being a women ranger at Parnngurr makes Waka & Karnu happy. When we are on country, they tell me about the other ranger stories, and we talk about places they have been, how they lived and what we need to do to look after country.
I feel privileged to have a job as a ranger. I would like to encourage other young girls to get involved and learn about their county too. It is important to make your spirit feel at peace.
- Alysha Taylor, courtesty of KJ (Kanyirninpa Jukurrpa Martu Cultural Knowledge Program) - www.kj.org.au
I’m 28 years old and have lived on the Arnhem Land Plateau my entire life. I was taught about this country by my grandfather and grandmother; both of them grew up walking across the stone country and knew all there is to know about the plants, animals, sacred sites, rock art, culture and lore of our home.
My grandfather, Bardayal ‘Lofty’ Nadjamerrek AO, taught all us young people about caring for country and the right ceremonial practices that are an essential part of managing land.
He has passed away now but he was alive to see the declaration of the Warddeken IPA in 2009 and was so happy because he knew it meant that we, the younger generations, could continue to look after our land through our work as rangers.
It was only two months after the declaration of our IPA that he passed away - it was almost like he was waiting to make sure our future and the future of the country he loved so much was secure.
I have a two-year-old daughter who lives with my wife and I at Kabulwarnamyo, the headquarters for the Warddeken IPA. I hope she can grow up learning about her country in the same way I did. For this to happen we need the federal government to continue their support for Working on Country and Indigenous Protected Areas and I say this to them: please continue to support these programs – they have helped our communities grow strong and healthy, just like our old people were.
- Gavin Namarnyilk
Around Australia, Indigenous rangers are protecting nature and transforming lives.