Stan Grant’s speech about racism and the Australian dream went spectacularly viral this week. It was a confronting statement on the devastating legacy of white settlement on First Nations people, and a clarion call for a new way of supporting Indigenous people as they overcome disadvantage.
It also provides an opportunity to recognise and celebrate programs that are working to do just that. ‘Country Needs People’ is a campaign to secure the future of Indigenous rangers.
Indigenous Rangers are highly-skilled, professional land managers, working in Indigenous Protected Areas on traditional lands across Australia. Indigenous Rangers use traditional practices and modern science to protect, nurture and restore the landscape. They are trained fire managers, and they work to eradicate feral animals and invasive weeds. They monitor threatened and endangered species and they restore native wildlife habitat. They are also vital in preserving traditional knowledge and bringing it to life for young indigenous people.
Indigenous ranger programs deliver massive social benefits. It has been estimated the return from Indigenous Ranger programs is around $3 for every dollar invested, as rates of alcoholism, crime, violence and incarceration decrease, and job retention and future employment prospects improve. Steady incomes help the viability of disadvantaged communities, while around 60% of Ranger groups offer commercial services to the private and government sectors, boosting their prospects of economic autonomy.
Federal funding for Ranger groups and Indigenous Protected Areas is only in place until 2018. We want to see funding doubled and the number of Rangers on the ground increased significantly.