THE LOWDOWN - Funding, the Feds, and the States; a Mixed Bag

Published: 27 Mar 2024

Indigenous Rangers and Traditional Owners advocating at Parliament House, Canberra, 2023. Photo: ID Photo.

2024 got off to a cracking start with many Indigenous organisations applying for the first round of open funding for Indigenous Rangers by the Federal Government for over a decade.  Country Needs People’s advocacy work with our Indigenous Partner network was the key factor in getting that funding commitment across political party lines, and as a supporter you definitely played a key role in helping us get the pollies locked in.  

Now the challenge is to make sure these new jobs are rolled out with sufficient support so that we aren’t setting new and emerging ranger groups up to fail.   Unfortunately, over the last decade the federal Environment Department has been severely stripped of staff to support this kind of work. 

Karajarri Ranger Team Anita Kitty, Jesse Ala'i and Carlene Wilridge meet Independent Senator David Pocock at CNP Parliament House Event, Canberra, 2023. Photo: ID Photos.  

The issues Indigenous Rangers are tackling to protect biodiversity, cultural values, sustain jobs, deal with climate impacts and support their communities are only getting more challenging.  Let’s give them the understanding, backup and focus they need to succeed through ensuring there is enough staff with a number one priority of supporting Indigenous land and sea management in the federal Environment Department.

Around the states it’s a mixed bag - Queensland, Northern Territory and Western Australia all have dedicated programs of support of varying quality for Indigenous land and sea management. Queensland are well ahead of the pack with a comprehensive Indigenous Rangers program backed up by a dedicated environment agency support unit to assist with networking, training, organisational management and technical issues.  This model should be the minimum standard for other states and the feds as well.  

Tiwi Ranger Stanley Tipungwuti undertaking cultural burning. Photo: Annette Ruzicka.

All three states have elections coming up over the next year though so it will be crucial to lock in secure arrangements that don’t get swept aside on election day. We will be working hard to make sure there is no backsliding by governments and improvements where we can get them.

As for the rest of the States there is frankly a long way to go.  We take the view that each state and territory government can put together a practical support package with staff and funding that has consistency over time, and should play their role as collaborative  and constructive backers for Indigenous community led land and sea management.  Stay tuned because as always, we need support in the broader community to ensure the pollies are listening. 

Budj Bim Ranger Ben Church with Budj Bim Rangers, Gundtijmara Country (VIC). Photo: Annette Ruzicka.