Indigenous peoples have lived in Australia for thousands of years. But today, these groups are often the most marginalized. As CGTN’s Greg Navarro explains, a conservation program is helping change perceptions, while protecting the land they’ve long called home.
At the start of a tour for a group of Australian university students in Far North Queensland, some common sense tips and a brief history lesson about the Indigenous group that manages a huge swath of land here.
Trinity Forest Reserve covers a massive area, nearly 1,000 hectares which include the bush, mountains, and the sea.
After a bumpy ride into a remote part of the reserve, Indigenous rangers begin the lesson.
Since 2010, the Mandingalbay Yidinji Aboriginal people have been officially recognized for managing conservation efforts here through the Djunbunji Land and Sea Program.
Dale Mundraby, the executive director of the Djunbunji Land and Sea Program, explained that, “For generations, our ancestors for thousands of years managed this country before contact, and we continue to manage this country today using our cultural knowledge and to add value to that we use science.”
It’s part of a federally funded Indigenous rangers program now in its 11th year, designed to give Aboriginal groups the task of protecting and managing land around the country.
“Lots of people do aspire to be a ranger, because it’s an important role,” said Malak Malak Ranger Coordinator Rob Lindsay.
People from overseas often see Australia’s Aboriginal population through traditional ceremonies dating back centuries.
Within Australia, the oldest continuous culture on the planet is often viewed as a small but highly marginalized segment of the population, with higher rates of certain health issues, incarceration, and unemployment than non-Aboriginal Australians.
That’s why the success and growth of these programs is so important.
“Our main aim is to get a lot of our mob, peel them off of the welfare cycle in a sense – try to get them work ready,” said Victor Bulmer, another ranger coordinator. “Having this system set up, it actually gives our people a bit more hope in changing their well-being in the sense of becoming more diverse within the community itself.”
Today, there are nearly 3,000 Indigenous rangers working across the country. Organizers say there are clear benefits to giving tour groups a glimpse of what they do.
Mundraby believes that, “Knocking down stereotypes, the walls about how Aboriginal people manage the country here in Australia, and by showcasing that and interpreting that to visitors, they can better understand and appreciate the relationship we have as Aboriginal people to the country.”
A relationship that draws from cultural knowledge, developed through watching over the land here for thousands of years.