What are Indigenous rangers?
Over 20% of Australia is held in Indigenous ownership. On this land lies some of Australia’s most exceptional natural environments. These lands are rich with native plants and animals, including many threatened species, and require ongoing care to survive. They also have some of the oldest artistic and cultural sights in the world.
Indigenous rangers work on these lands and beyond to combat a variety of environmental and cultural threats.
Indigenous rangers are funded through a few different mechanisms but the most significant is the Australian federal government’s Working on Country program. This program combines Indigenous traditional knowledge with modern techniques to protect and care for the land and sea. As of June 2018, the Working on Country program supports 118 ranger groups across Australia and funds over 831 full-time equivalent jobs – that’s more than 2500 jobs when broken down into casual, part-time and full-time positions.
Aside from the many environmental benefits of Indigenous rangers, the ranger jobs also have many social and economic benefits. A report commissioned by the federal Department of Prime Minister and Cabinet found that Indigenous land and sea management delivers up to a three dollars’ worth of environmental, social and economic value is delivered for every one dollar spent. Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities have reported flow on benefits including more role models, better mental and physical health, strengthening of culture, women’s empowerment and more.
Indigenous ranger jobs are at the frontline of nature protection Australia-wide and are delivering transformational benefits for people at the same time.
Why do we need more Indigenous ranger jobs?
The vast landscapes of Australia need active management to protect against environmental threats like feral animals, invasive weeds and destructive wildfires. We need more people working on country to address these threats. Because of factors like geography, culture and skills, Indigenous rangers are at the frontline of addressing these threats.
Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander organisations around the country report high and growing demand for ranger jobs. Indigenous rangers have strong positive impacts on nature, families and communities and growing the number of rangers will benefit all of Australia.
Where do Indigenous rangers work?
Indigenous rangers work across Australia on a range of different types of land and sea country. Rangers work on Indigenous Protected Areas, in national parks, on privately-held land and on the sea.
The map above of Indigenous Protected Areas shows that from the desert to the tropics and from the Arafura Sea off the Northern Territory to Australia's southern seas off Tasmania, Indigenous rangers are working across the nation and across a wide range of environments. Each ranger group enters into an agreement with the Australian government defining their environmental and cultural goals. As a result, the work Indigenous rangers do is as varied as the country itself. The Uunguu Rangers in the North Kimberly, WA monitor dugong and sea turtle populations. While, Kiwirrkurra traditional owners of the Gibson and Great Sandy Deserts maintain biodiversity through traditional wildfire fire reduction, and the Spinifex Rangers in the Great Victoria Desert work to keep country Buffel Grass Free.
How can I become an Indigenous ranger?
If you want to work as an Indigenous ranger, there are a few different ways to get there. There are jobs on Indigenous-held land, in national parks or local government parks, and on other types of land and sea country too. Many of these jobs are advertised on the NRM Jobs website, on local organisations’ websites or Facebook pages. So it’s a good idea to keep an eye on those.
If you’re a traditional owner, a good first step is to contact your Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander organisation. They may have some work available or know the options in your local area or know when some new ranger jobs are likely to come online.
It is also a good idea to consider some study in conservation, land and sea management and the like. Centrelink and MySkills are good places to start if you’re thinking about studying – they can help you understand your options and chances of getting financial help.
Volunteering with ranger groups is also a great way to gain experience and develop contacts. You could get in touch with the organisation you would like to work for and see what volunteer opportunities are around.
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