Uunguu Rangers managing sea country

on 05 Sep 2013 

Wunambal Gaambera elders recently invited me to join with the Uunguu Rangers on sea country work in the north Kimberley. 

There was so much activity and interesting happenings that it is quite hard to summarise everything that I saw.  Gaambemirri camp is the ranger base location nearby to the Truscott-Mungulalu Airfield and the far north Kimberley coastline and is where Wunambal Gaambera plan to invest in their infrastructure developments in the future.  It provides for shelter, communications and tourism opportunities as well as being close to significant cultural and natural features on the land.  The Truscott-Mungulalu Airfield is leased nearby and run like many remote WA mine camp facilities (think pools, restaurant, etc), but this facility is leased by WG to the logistics company and in addition to rent, there are future employment opportunities coming online.

This Uunguu Ranger field trip had many conservation purposes: rainforest research (UTAS volunteers); iTracker monitoring of turtles and other wildlife; island litter monitoring/collections; clam spp investigations (NT Fisheries); cultural site visits; traditional hunting and cultural knowledge exchange.  There were over 18 people involved with a mix of interests and backgrounds, but this work was all being driven by the ranger team themselves.  It was great to observe Tom Vigilante (Healthy Country Manager), Rob Warren (Ranger Coordinator) and Bevan Stott (WG Aboriginal Corp) go about their business in-support of the ranger work, but also their adept handling of a couple of remote area emergencies as well.

It is a stunning tropical workplace that is in fact closer to Indonesian islands than Broome, but the work is done in remote and challenging conditions.  Like Steve Heggie's recent experiences during his overland firewalk, I witnessed Indigenous people managing their (sea) country and just getting on with it.  The appreciation shown for Bush Heritage's ongoing support was profound.

Many thanks to Bevan, Rob and Uunguu Ranger group for hosting me so well.  Special shout-out to Tom for organising my attendance and demonstrating great skills and leadership throughout the trip.