Birriliburu and Kiwirrkurra Rangers head to Canberra

on 08 Sep 2016 

The National Threatened Species Commissioner Gregory Andrews invited Indigenous Rangers Rita Cutter, Nolia Napangarti-Ward and her daughter Jodie Ward to Canberra. He asked them to speak about the important work Indigenous Rangers are undertaking across Australia to protect threatened species, manage threats such as feral cats and foxes and strengthen their cultural knowledge and connection to country.

The ladies are from the remote Western Australian desert: Rita is from the Birriliburu Indigenous Protected Area (IPA); Nolia and Jodie are from the Kiwirrkurra IPA.

Last week Rita and I packed our bags and travelled together to the Nation’s capital and met up with Nolia and Jodie who were accompanied by Rachel Paltridge.

It was a whirlwind trip but a most important one.

The Commissioner arranged for meetings with the most senior staff at the Department of Environment and Energy and the Department of Prime Minister and Cabinet. We really appreciated the undivided attention they gave us. We also gave presentations to both Departments and to the National Feral Cat Taskforce. We briefly met the new Minister for Environment and Energy Josh Frydenberg.

The Commissioner gave the ladies an opportunity to be heard.

Rita, Nolia and Jodie provided current examples of real, on-the-ground conservation outcomes that have resulted from Indigenous Ranger programs.

Rita shared her knowledge and passion for Bilbies and how becoming a ranger has improved her confidence. She said ‘I used to be gunta (shy) but now here I am talking to you all in Canberra’. Nolia and Jodie spoke about their cat hunting work which is humane and effective in protecting a range of threatened species such as the Greater Bilby and the Great Desert Skink.

The ladies also spoke about the importance of targeted, traditional, patchwork burning undertaken in both IPAs, which prevents large hot wildfires from burning across vast areas and removing vegetation cover that otherwise helps protect native fauna from feral predators.

The Commissioner and his staff took the time to look after us by organising a spotlighting tour of Mulligans Flat, a tour of Parliament House, an ABC radio interview, a chat with Annabel Crabb, cups of tea and more.

A special highlight was when Commissioner Andrews awarded each of the ladies a certificate in front of a crowd of people at the National Library of Australia. The ladies felt respected, acknowledged and proud of their important work as they stepped up and shook his hand. Rita has asked me to laminate her certificate so she can keep it forever!

We thank the Commissioner for recognising that Rita, Nolia and Jodie (and so many other Indigenous Rangers) are highly-skilled and undertaking critical conservation work.

The Birriliburu and Kiwirrkurra Ranger Teams are supported by the Australian Government’s Indigenous Protected Area Program which gives them a platform for attracting further funding, partners and recognition. It's really important that the IPA Program continues to grow and be recognised for the employment, social, cultural and environmental outcomes it provides across vast areas of Australia.

Thanks again Commissioner Andrews and your team (particularly Oliver Tester, Erin Lake, Dani Binder and Sam Dutton) for making the ladies feel like the VIPs they truly are. 

Both Ranger Programs are also supported by Rangelands NRM through the National Landcare Program and by Central Desert Land and Community. Bush Heritage Australia supports the Birriliburu Ranger Program.