Being a ranger comes with the big responsibility of looking after country. Over the last year, our ranger team has grown to twelve people, with eight rangers funded by the Kimberley Land Council, and four new positions funded through the Green Army. We have ranger coordinators for both men and women’s groups, Frankie McCarthy and Chantelle Murray, and also a Healthy Country Coordinator, Brendan Fox. This year, we’ve been undertaking a range of conservation and land management activities.
Head Women’s Ranger Coordinator, Chantelle Murray, says she’s proud to be leading a strong team that’s committed to caring for country. “Over the last year, our capacity has really grown. We have a dedicated team of men and women that are making sure Ngurrara country is looked after and protected in accordance with our cultural protocols. In addition to our day-to-day land management activities—like fire and feral weed management—we’re also exploring ways for the rangers to set up local enterprises.”
Some of the enterprise projects under consideration include selling camel humps for biodiesel, establishing a nursery and selling seedlings and producing incense from the wood of the konkerberry tree.
The rangers are involved in a number of other big activities. Plans are still progressing to set up a Canning Stock Route base camp. The idea is to transport a donga onto the Stock Route and to have a rotating roster of rangers at the base. Rangers will also take part in construction work to develop the area, with support from the Kimberley Training Institute (KTI). This is important so we can enforce the permit system already in place, control access, increase visitor engagement and to educate visitors on country.
Two Way Learning Project
Another major project for us has been the Shell Two Way Learning Project involving rangers, Traditional Owners and school students. As part of this project, we’re looking after and monitoring ground water in the Canning Basin, in a way that combines western science and traditional knowledge. Participants match stories and knowledge of jilas (waterholes) with scientific data collected by using water monitoring and sampling techniques.
So far, Wili, Pirrini, Purluwala, Lumpu Lumpu, Crossland 3 and Kurnajarti were all tested for salt and fresh water, and we found out that they are all safe to drink from. At Wili, Pirrini, Purluwala, Lumpu Lumpu, we recorded information with data loggers to determine water flow and direction beneath the surface. At Wili, Lumpu Lumpu and Pirrini we’ve set up weather stations and we are also looking at installing another weather station on Well 49 at the base camp towards the end of 2015. Currently, the rangers are responsible for monitoring bores and barometer pressure, water monitoring evaluation and installing weather stations. All information recorded must be reported to the Traditional Owners and people of Ngurrara country. This is an important project for Yanunijarra to oversee, because it allows us to monitor climate change impacts and we can use it as a management tool to inform future conservation activities.
There have been a number of positive outcomes from the Shell Two Way Learning Project. It’s providing opportunities in both employment and education. So far, all 12 rangers have gained skills and experiences in completing Certificate II and III in Conservation and Land Management—and part of this involves undertaking water sampling and testing. We’re also hoping to increase school attendance by involving young people with the project. We’re teaching about water monitoring in schools and providing school scholarships and awards for students for good attendance.
Cissy Gore Birch has recently come onboard as the Two Way Learning Cultural Education Officer and she’s excited about the project’s potential. “This is a project that can go a long way. We’re working on a new and innovative way of doing things and we’ve already been in schools and worked with around 120 kids at Fitzroy Crossing District High School and Bayulu Community School. We want this to be a project that works for us, and we want it to be sustainable.”
Yanunijarra aims to be involved at all levels when it comes to decision making on country. We will uphold the values of our old people and the Traditional Owners, and balance the needs of current and future generations to look after country in a sustainable way.