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Land Rights News Central Australia: Land Rights News (September 2010)

Published: September, 2010

l-r: Tjuwanpa Rangers Colin Joseph and Damien Williams have set their sights on becoming supervising rangers with NT Parks and Wildliife Serv

Park Rangers on the way to the top

The Central Land Council and Northern Territory Parks and Wildlife have combined to provide two Western Arrernte men with an opportunity to work as park rangers.

The two men, Colin Joseph and Damian Williams, were already working as rangers with the CLC’s Tjuwanpa ranger group near Hermannsburg (Ntaria), which involves carrying out various land management roles, including fire, weed and feral animal management, erosion control, sacred site protection, and monitoring work.

Their six month placement with Parks and Wildlife saw them take on the roles of park rangers in the Finke Gorge and Watarrka national parks.

The placement was designed to trial a concept allowing CLC rangers to trial working within the Parks and Wildlife system and whether they’d like to make the transition into the Parks and Wildlife workforce in the future.

Mr Joseph lives at the Yakala outstation near Hermannsburg and said he’d been enjoying the different challenges of working for Parks and Wildlife.

“It’s been going good,” he said. “A big difference in working for Parks. Parks came and asked us because one of the workers here had to go overseas. We’ve been here for about four months now. It’s going alright.

“It’s been pretty good coming here to Watarrka to work in parks, getting to meet other parks staff and all that.”

Mr Williams said the work placement will enable the pair to take some new ideas back with them when they return to work with the Tjuwanpa group.

“I think that was another part too was to see how Parks operates and maybe one day one of us could stay here and be a full-time park ranger and if not, take the knowledge that we’ve got here, to take back to Tjuwanpa Rangers and better them even though they’re doing really well, get some extra skills in there and try to make it work for everyone.”

Mr Williams said he’d one day like to see local Aboriginal people holding supervisor roles in their local parks.
“That would be awesome,” he said. “Like I was talking to some of the other Indigenous rangers that were from other parks around here and we were just talking and we’d like to have a T3, which is like the main supervisor in each area to be an Aboriginal person from that area. That would be awesome, a traditional owner.”

The handing back of ownership of Northern Territory parks to their Aboriginal traditional owners has led to a joint management arrangement between Parks and Wildlife and the traditional owners under a 99 year leaseback deal.
“Another thing for having a T3 Aboriginal ranger is it would make it so much easier for joint management to work out because they’ll already have a main bloke or woman in the position to make the joint management work easier.”

Chief district ranger with Parks and Wildlife, Chris Day, shares the goal of having traditional owners holding down senior ranger positions.

“That’s certainly a stated aim. That’s what the goals of joint management are,” he said.

Mr Day decided to approach Tjuwanpa rangers to take on a trial with parks when he realised it would be hard to fill a six month posting in Finke Gorge National Park from within Parks’ own staff.

“It occurred to me we had an opportunity to demonstrate a commitment to joint management and acknowledge the great job the Tjuwanpa rangers have been doing,” Mr Day said.

“It was an opportunity for us to look at them and them to look at us without making a long-term commitment.”
He said the pair has been fulfilling all the tasks regular parks rangers carry out such as maintenance, fencing, fire management and weed work.

They’ve also been making presentations to tourists under the Territory Parks Alive program.

“It is a very positive and rewarding experience for visitors to have a local Aboriginal person talking about their country and how important looking after that country is for them,” Mr Day said.

“We know from Tourism NT market research that engaging with Indigenous people and experiencing their culture through opportunities like the Territory Parks Alive Program is a very big motivator for people visiting the NT.  
Mr Joseph said he’d like to see more Aboriginal people from CLC ranger groups given the chance to experience what he and Mr Williams have.

“I think there’s a couple of other fellas that want to do this as well and might have a chance in the future,” he said.
“Yeah I think the other indigenous rangers that they’ve got around in the Northern Territory, they should get a chance to work with Parks, the same thing that we’re doing.”