MP sponsors launch of Indigenous rangers report

MP sponsors launch of Indigenous rangers report

Member for Mayo Rebekha Sharkie was honoured to sponsor the launch of the Indigenous Protected Areas and Indigenous Ranges Report at Parliament House.

The following is Ms Sharkie’s speech delivered at the launch:

“Firstly, thank you Tina for that warm welcome to Ngunnawal Country.

I’d like to acknowledge the Ngunnawal people, the traditional owners of the land we are meeting on today and pay my respects to their elders past and present.

I’d also like to pay my respects to all of the Indigenous people here today, many of you have travelled vast distances to be with us, including travelling through Cyclone Debbie.

I particularly want to thank Ian and Sophia who spent time with me yesterday to talk about the work they do as Indigenous Rangers.

I would like to acknowledge the Minister for Indigenous Affairs, Senator the Hon Nigel Scullion, and all of my Parliamentary Colleagues who are here today.

I am delighted to be here today and to sponsor this event to launch such an important report.

The Nick Xenophon Team strongly supports the Indigenous Protected Areas and Indigenous Rangers programs and we expressed this publicly prior to the election.

I am passionate about these programs because of the incredible outcomes they deliver, and I’ll talk more about that in a moment

But I want to highlight that the funding for these programs is due to finish in June 2018 - we would like to see the funding for these programs not only continued but doubled. Let me tell you why.

These programs consistently achieve extraordinary outcomes. The report we’re launching today outlines the environmental outcomes that the Indigenous rangers achieve in Indigenous Protected Areas.

There are fascinating case studies in the report about many facets of the rangers’ work including: protecting country from wildfires and eliminating feral animals such as camels, pigs, buffalo and goats; saving endangered species such as turtles, parrots and bilbies and eliminating weeds.

I particularly enjoyed the case study about saving turtles from feral pigs by culling the pigs and designing and building cages to protect the nests of the turtles.

This example has a Junior Ranger Program where young people can learn more about caring for country – the involvement of young people is an issue dear to my heart as most of you know. There are many other Junior Ranger programs around the country.

Yesterday Ian shared with me his experience about controlling feral goats to protect vegetation from damage - since 2013 the Nantawarrina rangers have removed 5600 goats.

Sophia highlighted her work in collecting seeds, propagating them and planting to restore vegetation – the before and after photographs area breathtaking.

I was interested to hear about the potential commercial opportunities this work creates, for tourism as well as harvesting saltbush leaves and the sale of quondongs.

There is no doubt that the environmental outcomes are impressive and I’m sure you will all enjoy reading about them in the report.

These programs play a huge part in protecting and developing our National Reserve System: the Indigenous Protected Areas make up around 44 per cent of the National Reserve System.

The real strength of these programs is in the multi-faceted benefits delivered.

They provide jobs for around 2500 Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people in remote locations where there are very few other employment opportunities.

The rangers program builds on the strengths of Aboriginal people through their knowledge of, and connection to, country.

These are real jobs with a practical purpose, and they provide a benefit to all Australians through the protection of our environment.

We have around 170 million hectares of Aboriginal freehold land – I believe that the programs could easily be doubled to employ 5000 Aboriginal people and we would only be scratching the surface of what could be done.

The programs have also delivered substantial social benefits; recent research by Social Ventures Australia demonstrated that Indigenous Protected Areas with Indigenous Rangers delivered up to a three to one return on the Government funding invested.

With a social return on investment like that the Government is getting a very handsome return in my opinion.

So, after you’ve enjoyed the hospitality today I urge all of you to take some practical action to support these programs.

Please find out more about them. Read the report. Visit Indigenous Protected Areas in your electorate or state. Talk to Indigenous Rangers – I learned so much by talking with Ian and Sophia yesterday.

Talk to your colleagues and urge them to support more funding for these programs.

Lobby your State Governments for additional funding. Some already provide some funding, notably NT, Western Australia and Queensland.

While there are some IPAs and Indigenous Rangers throughout South Australia, unfortunately I don’t have any Indigenous Protected Areas or rangers in my electorate YET but I intend to fight for some.

I have sensitive environmental areas that would benefit from the skills and protection that the rangers would bring, such as the lower lakes, Kangaroo Island, and Deep Creek Conservation Park.

So as well as supporting additional funding at the Federal level I will raise this issue with the Hon Kyam Maher, the South Australian Minister for Aboriginal Affairs and Reconciliation as well as Employment.

Thank you all for coming today to celebrate the achievements of our wonderful Indigenous Rangers. I congratulate them all for the work they do."