Jeffrey Curtis has been waiting a long time for a new ranger hub in Tennant Creek, but now it’s come — and he’s looking forward to seeing how it helps young people in the remote Northern Territory town.

The new Muru-warinyi Ankkul Ranger base, built by an Aboriginal-owned construction company, is bigger and airier than the last, with modern amenities.

The ranger group had previously been splitting their operations between two locations, but the upgraded single site replaces what was basically “a very old shed”, according to Mr Curtis.

“I’ve been waiting for a new one for a very, very long time, maybe 10 or 15 years,” he said.

“I’m very happy for this new ranger hub and I hope it can do better for the future for our young ones.”

An Aboriginal man wearing a cap and blue work shirt looks at the camera in front a Tennant Creek Ranger Workshed sign.
Ranger Jeffrey Curtis hopes the new Tennant Creek hub will benefit young people in the community.(Supplied: Central Land Council)

Rangers as role models

Muru-warinyi Ankkul Rangers was established in 2003 and is one of the oldest Central Land Council ranger groups.

The rangers care for country by monitoring plants, animals and water, but they have also mentored Tennant Creek high school students; up until the work experience program was stopped due to COVID-19.

Ranger Kylie Sambo said she hoped to restart the program.

“It [learning about country] starts early. If they know it when they’re young, it’s easy for them when they are older to get back to their roots,” she said.

“This is just a fun way of trying to work with non-Indigenous people on country.”

An Aboriginal woman wearing a navy work shirt holds onto the frame of a buggy in a work shed and looks at the camera
Ranger Kylie Sambo would like to restart a work experience program from the hub.(Supplied: Central Land Council)

Tennant Creek has long been facing problems of youth crime, but Ms Sambo knows first-hand the power of positive role models.

“When I was at school I would go on a lot of trips with Central Land Council and write up essays about what we were doing on country and that would give me credit with school,” she said.

“That helped me a lot with being on the streets and doing all of these things that are happening now.

“I watched them [rangers] as a kid first and then said to myself, ‘I’m gonna be a ranger some day’. And sure enough, I am.”

Two Aboriginal women rangers stand on either side of a fence, putting it together.
The Muru-warinyi Ankkul Rangers is one of the oldest Central Land Council ranger groups.(Supplied: Central Land Council)

New hub cooler and closer

The new ranger shed has a large fan, lockers, a tool cage, welding benches and, outside, a pressure cleaner and wash bay, while the house on the property received a new kitchen, bathroom, furnishings, solar panels and air conditioning.

A new conference space and server room will allow the site to be used as a training facility, while space for heavy equipment storage means the site can be a central hub for other ranger teams from Arlparra, Lajamanu, Daguragu, and Ti Tree.

Three Aboriginal men huddle around a fence post, one uses a sledge hammer to bang it into the ground.
The hub will become a training site for other ranger groups.(Supplied: Central Land Council)

Ms Sambo said having a new truck and tractor stationed at the hub will also be a boon, as central regional rangers previously had to travel to Alice Springs to borrow big equipment.

“[The hub] can make a huge difference with the time the rangers spend on roads to get to places and then come back to do the job, and then get that equipment back to where it came from,” she said.

“That’s been one of the biggest problems.”

A woman points at a diagram on a posters on a brick interior wall. A man is listening.
The new hub has modern amenities inside and out, allowing for a wide range of uses. (Supplied: Central Land Council)

Modern way of caring for country

Ms Sambo said the new hub would help her work on country and learn about her culture.

“And I’m being paid to do that, which is very important, because with this society we live in, everything revolves around having funding, having money to do so,” she said.

“The ranger program that’s in place allows us to tackle jobs given to us by traditional owners and that is also deeply important to us, because we are connected to the country.

“This is just a modern way of taking care of country and taking care of family and taking care of the plants and animals.”

A woman wearing fire safe clothing hold a fire lighter and lights the grass in an savanna.
Rangers say the new hub will help them work more efficiently on projects including traditional burning.(Supplied: Central Land Council)

Mr Curtis said the rangers made him proud.

“[I’m] very happy with my group. We were established from 2003, but we’re still going,” he said.

“This ranger group has achieved a lot — a lot of training has been done and a lot of land management and conservation … it’s made us a stronger group.”

An ABC news story posted 20 Feb 2024

Tennant Creek’s new Muru-warinyi Ankkul Ranger hub a welcome upgrade for working, training – ABC News