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Queensland Indigenous Rangers Protect Cultures, Ecosystems of Australia

by Aoife O’Riordan

Mar 10, 2023

© Indigenous Women of the Great Barrier Reef

Daily

In Queensland, Australia, just 20 percent of indigenous rangers are women. This makes the Indigenous Women of the Great Barrier Reef’s recent accomplishment of receiving the world’s most prestigious environmental awards, The Earthshot Prize, all the more impressive. The Earthshot Prize, founded by David Attenborough and Prince William, recognizes inspiring leaders, passionate activists, innovators, and forward-thinking cities and countries making a true difference and awards winners with nearly $1.2 million.

As Australia and, more specifically, The Great Barrier Reef Marine Park, expects more and more visitors over the next few years, indigenous women of the Great Barrier Reef seek to empower each other and protect critical ecosystems in Australia and beyond. The Great Barrier Reef faces threats from impacts of climate change, as well as local threats like poor water quality and crown-of-thorns starfish outbreaks.

workshop

© Indigenous Women of the Great Barrier Reef

“The Reef’s Indigenous rangers are vital to its defense,” said Tanya Plibersek, Minister for Environment and Water. “Indigenous Rangers play a vital role in the restoration and preservation of land and water including the Reef by helping to protect both biodiversity and cultural values. The programs also provide jobs in regional and remote communities, maintain connection to country and grows local economies.”

Led by managing director Larissa Hale, the Queensland Indigenous Women Rangers Network has already built the next generation of women rangers over the last four years alone. Training more than 60 women, the program encourages a new conservation approach bringing together ancient knowledge passed down from generation to generation and modern tools like drones to monitor coral changes, forest fires and land degradation.

Larissa Hale is a Yuku Baja Muliku woman from Archer Point, a place south of Cooktown. After promising her grandfather she would fight for her people and country more than 20 years ago, Hale established the Yuku Baja Muliku Ranger Program in her hometown in 2008. Starting with just two part-time rangers, this local program now employs more than 18 rangers.

Pumpkin Island

© Tourism & Events Queensland

As Queensland’s first indigenous female coordinator, she was responsible for growing the number of indigenous female rangers in Queensland from 19 to 124. She continues to fight for traditional knowledge of the natural surroundings and its compatibility with Western science in reef protection efforts.

“Many people are worried about climate change and the destruction of Nature,” said Hale. “This place has always been our home, but today we risk losing it and the unique culture that has existed here for millennia. But I believe it isn’t too late to act. We have the power to shift this if we stand up now, work together and take action. With greater support, indigenous women rangers can span the globe to help repair ecosystems as far away as Nepal and Hawai’i.

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