Good for people, good for Country: meet The Intrepid Foundation’s newest Australia-based partner

written by Danielle McDonald May 22, 2024

Deep in Ngururrpa Indigenous Protected Area in Western Australia’s Great Sandy Desert, Ngururrpa Indigenous ranger Clifford Sunfly used cameras and sound recorders to track the elusive night parrot, once thought to be extinct. In the rangers’ first year on the project, their tracking efforts revealed what might be the largest population of night parrots ever recorded.

Just like Clifford, Indigenous rangers are taking care of Indigenous Protected Areas (IPAs) right across the country. Australia’s dedicated IPAs are land and sea Country managed by Traditional Owners and Indigenous ranger groups.

Looking after Country is also looking after Culture. Indigenous rangers draw on their connection to Country, combining ancient wisdom and modern conservation techniques to care for the land, river and sea.

From the Daintree to the Red Centre, and beneath the surface from the Great Barrier Reef to Ningaloo, Indigenous rangers and Indigenous Protected Areas keep people, nature and culture strong Australia-wide.

Nationally, there are over 129 Indigenous ranger groups, and over 50% of Australia’s reserves on land are IPAs – that’s 87.5 million hectares (12 times the size of Tasmania). And the Intrepid Foundation’s newest impact partner, Country Needs People, is 100% focused on growing, supporting and securing the work of Indigenous rangers and IPAs across Australia. 

More than just a numbers game 

Country Needs People work hard to ensure Indigenous rangers and Indigenous Protected Areas are supported now and into the future. To them, it’s not just about expanding IPAs across the country at record-pace, it’s about scaling efforts in a considered way that supports continued success for the Indigenous rangers and conservation initiatives on the ground.

Rangers need to be properly equipped with infrastructure, tech and transport to thrive in the often harsh Australian environment while also delivering on conservation commitments, navigating cross-culturally informed governance and managing relationships with government agencies, research institutions and other interests.

It’s about restoring the health of Country. Restoring traditional practice. It’s about putting the story back together again.

Denis Rose, Gunditjmara Traditional Owner and Chair of Country Needs People, puts it simply. ‘It can’t just be a numbers game. It can’t be, ‘Oh, we’ve got another 10 million hectares of IPA for protected areas’. We want to have another 10 million hectares of extremely well managed protected areas.’

‘When we talk about protecting Country and about protecting the cultural integrity of Country, it’s about restoring the health of Country. Restoring traditional practice. It’s about putting the story back together again,’ he continues.

As a majority  Indigenous-governed organisation, Country Needs People advocates to expand and adequately resource Traditional Owner led IPAs and to ensure they, and Indigenous rangers, are properly supported by governments across the country. Indigenous Rangers are on the frontline of Australia’s biggest environmental challenges – safeguarding threatened animals, managing fire, fighting invasive species, assisting with disasters and state emergencies and managing tourist impacts and cultural sites.

‘We’ve had a disconnect from Country, from traditional practice,’ Denis says. ‘So getting back on Country to understand it is really important.’

Restoring balance and protecting nature  

Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples have shaped and managed land and sea in Australia for millennia. And, today, Indigenous Protected Areas hold some of the highest conservation values in Australia.

Budj Bim Ranger Aaron Morgan. Image by Rodney Dekker.
Budj Bim Ranger Aaron Morgan is an Indigenous ranger working hard to protect Country in Victoria. Image by Rodney Dekker.

Denis says, ‘First Nations landowners are contributing their land, knowledge and efforts toward the betterment of Australia’s biodiversity. We’ve got people out on Country all the time… They’re the eyes and ears of Country.’

The 2021 State of the Environment Report echoes this sentiment, saying Indigenous rangers are ‘considered critical in the delivery of environmental services across the nation.’

Strengthening community and culture  

Indigenous Rangers not only protect Australia’s wild places and wildlife, they also protect culture.   

Indigenous ranger jobs stimulate economies in local communities and provide additional job opportunities which enhance community wellbeing. Moreover, rangers are role models in their communities, encouraging the next generation to protect Australian landscapes and preserve Indigenous stories, culture and wisdom into the future.  

You can support people and Country by giving to The Intrepid Foundation partner Country Needs People. All donations made before 30 June 2024 will be matched, to double your impact.  

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