The handful of rangers working on the lands of the Mithaka people in Queensland’s Channel Country have a huge office roughly three times the size of Sydney.
“At the moment, they’re battling. We’ve only got five of them to cover over 40,000 square kilometres,” Mithaka traditional owner Scott Gorringe told The Point.
“We’d like to have strong support from the three sides of government about how do we look after, and fund more rangers for that country.”
They’re more than gardeners. Indigenous rangers work to protect a region’s wildlife, biodiversity and cultural heritage.
From hunting feral animals, to back burning to weed control, they are vital to protecting country.
“It provides a whole lot of opportunities for them; not only getting out on their country and feeling healthy and strong,” according to Mr Gorringe, who now lives in Canberra.
“They feel like they’re contributing to the economy and contributing to their families. It also creates a whole lot of other niche jobs that fit in behind ranger jobs."
Near-perfect retention rates
Hardly any Indigenous rangers quit their jobs, according to a review of the program by Pew Charitable Trusts and Synergies Economic Consulting.
“In 2013–14, only 136 Indigenous employees (6 per cent) were reported to have left the program; this is a high retention rate and suggests a high level of job satisfaction,” it noted in its 2015 report.
The report noted there are nearly 3,000 Indigenous Australians employed in the Working on Country (WOC) or Indigenous Protected Areas programs.
Established by the Federal Government in 2007, WOC funds over 700 ranger positions.
The five year, $335 million dollar funding package is due to expire in 2018.
It’s a success story the Greens want to see continue with an election expected in July.
“What ranger groups are saying to us very clearly is that they need certainty, but they’re really keen to build the program because it's so successful. So we've written to the Prime Minister urging him to double the funding for ranger groups and extend contracts for 15 years,” Greens Indigenous Affairs spokeswoman Rachel Siewert told The Point.
“What they’re saying from what they’ve costed is $80 million a year. We think that’s a very good investment for such successful outcomes.”