In 2000 and 2001, a joint weed control project of the NT Weeds Branch, Greening Australia and the Yuendumu Community Development Employment Program (CDEP, now defunct) provided employment for CDEP participants to tackle Parkinsonia, rubber bush, athel pine and mesquite in and around Yuendumu. A year later, we set up a formal ranger group in partnership with the Yuendumu CDEP. A ranger coordinator was recruited in late 2004 with NHT funding, facilitating opportunities for residents of Yuendumu, Nyirrpi and Willowra to engage in land management activities and for CDEP participants in particular to earn additional income and take part in on-the-job training.
In addition to the NHT support, the Aboriginals Benefit Account (ABA) provided valuable funding to equip the ranger group with field equipment, for surveys for instance. Significant areas of early focus were the management of the Newhaven Reserve with Birds Australia and a Tanami biodiversity monitoring program. An interruption to funding in 2006 and the demise of CDEP in the NT in 2007 caused the group to falter until a series of NHT-funded projects in fire management, threatened species recovery and weed control across the southern Tanami region helped rebuild the group’s capacity and profile sufficiently for it to be incorporated into the federal Working on Country program in 2009.
Our successful funding application in 2007 to investigate the feasibility of a Southern Tanami IPA had laid the foundations for a long-term funding framework for the rangers and Warlpiri traditional owners to manage the natural and cultural values of their country. After an extensive planning process, the Southern Tanami IPA was declared in 2012 and a plan of management completed. That plan guides the work of the Warlpiri Rangers today in three management regions, each with a committee inputting into work planning and prioritisation. The Warlpiri Rangers are based in and coordinated from Yuendumu. Rangers from Nyirrpi and Willowra are employed on a casual basis.