A new study from the north of Australia has shown the valuable range of benefits that Indigenous ranger programs bring to remote Indigenous communities and the wider Australian community.
While the study focused on Indigenous ranger schemes, many of the benefits of working on and caring for traditional country apply also to other activities that facilitate Indigenous peoples to care for traditional country, not least Indigenous savanna fire management activities.
For several years, CSIRO researchers funded under the Australian Government’s National Environmental Research Program have been collaborating with local Indigenous ranger and cultural organisations to better understand the true value of the Indigenous Cultural and Natural Resource Management (ICNRM) sector.
The scientists exploring the wider benefits of Indigenous land management programs hope their research will positively shape future investment decisions for the rapidly growing sector.
The results of the research have been detailed in a report titled ‘Rangers in place’ and in a community generated documentary called ‘Let’s care for this country.’ Lead researcher Dr Marcus Barber says the support provided by the Yirralka Rangers and the Buku Larrnggay Mulka Arts Centre based in northeast Arnhem Land were integral to the study.
“The Yirralka Rangers have a regionalised model in which their staff live in homeland communities spread across the entire Indigenous Protected Area they manage. They deliver essential services to their community by managing and protecting environmental and cultural values on their homelands,” Dr Barber said.
Dr Barber says programs undertaken by ICNRM groups are primarily evaluated by funding sources based on their environmental outcomes, but they also generate a range of additional health, economic, social, political and cultural benefits. By building partnerships with local community organisations, the Rangers, Traditional Owners, their families and other community members, researchers were able to get a better sense of these wider benefits.
“There are a number of obvious benefits derived from the program, such as improved physical health from increased exercise and economic benefits from increased income and employment stability, but a range of other, less well-known benefits were also reported. People took pride in the fact that they were caring for their country, and that their work supported key Indigenous cultural principles like sharing traditional knowledge through generations. The program also supported long term processes of leadership development and succession.”
Dr Barber says the Yirralka Ranger case study is a good example of the full range of private and public benefits potentially derived from other ICNRM projects.
“A full understanding of the values of Indigenous ranger programs can help government to better design policy and make smarter investments in Indigenous communities into the future”.