In a unique multi-stakeholder, multi-purpose, collaborative venture, the Northern Agricultural Catchments Council (NACC) this week ‘launched’ an innovative Indigenous Ranger pilot project in the Mid West region.
With funding from the Department of Prime Minister and Cabinet (a $1.5 million Indigenous Advancement Strategy community-led grant), the pilot project will provide opportunities for Indigenous people from across the Mid West to engage in Natural Resource Management (NRM) activities that increase job readiness – through training and on-the-job career skills development – while delivering on-ground conservation and cultural outcomes.
With the support of partner organisations, including the Geraldton-based environmental business Western Mulga, and the Department of Biodiversity, Conservation and Attractions (DBCA), the equivalent of 10FTE rangers will be employed on a casual, part time or full time basis to undertake nature conservation activities with a strong cultural emphasis of “Caring for Country”.
The Federal Member for Durack, Melissa Price, congratulated NACC on the launch of the project and commended the cooperative efforts of the multiple contributors who have helped to bring the project from concept to reality.
“We are really pleased that the Federal Government has funded the NACC to employ 10 full time Indigenous Rangers in the Mid West” Ms Price said.
“The Federal Government was particularly pleased at how cost effective their proposal was, with environmental services delivered to multiple sectors throughout the region.
“We look to fund programs that require initial Federal Government set up funding, but transition into becoming sustainable on their own merit” Ms Price said.
NACC CEO Richard McLellan said he was delighted to see the project ‘get off the ground’ after many, many months of development, stakeholder engagement and liaison, and hard work by a core group of project proponents.
“This project has the potential to make a real ‘quadruple bottom line’ contribution,” he said. “There are obvious environmental, economic, social, and cultural benefits to be gained that will make a real impact in our region.”
One of the driving forces behind the project, Aboriginal Program Project Manager Greg Burrows said the Aboriginal Ranger project was a small but important step to supporting Aboriginal People to care for country, while at the same time gain training and employment.
“Aboriginal people have practiced caring for country for a very long time,” he said. “And that’s something that we can all learn from.”
Mr Burrows said the Rangers would work on real environmental issues – such as weed and pest control – and receive training in Conservation and Land Management with project partner Central Regional TAFE.
“Mentoring Indigenous youth, getting them work ready, and improving their skills level, is an important part of this project” he said.
NACC Aboriginal Participation Program Coordinator Bianca McNeair said the ambitious project would also provide exciting new opportunities for engaging Indigenous people in natural and cultural heritage activities, protecting cultural heritage sites, and transferring Traditional Ecological Knowledge.
“Although we have had Aboriginal rangers in the Mid West in the past, an Aboriginal Ranger project of this kind has been a long time coming,” she said. “It is a huge accolade for the Traditional Custodians of this region, and everyone who has collaborated to get the project started.
“Through community consultation, conservation and land management training, and the inclusion of Traditional Ecological Knowledge, we are confident that this pilot project will build the foundations for a long-lasting Aboriginal Ranger program in the Mid West.
“That will help ensure our region is well looked-after for everyone to enjoy,” she said.