KKT-Daluk-Rangers Daluk Rangers photo courtesy of Rowand Taylor

Celebrating Women in Indigenous Ranger Programs

on International Women's Day

March 8th marks International Women’s Day, a global day celebrating the social, economic, cultural and political achievements of women.

In light of this, we are highlighting the important role of women in Indigenous ranger programs in West and Central Arnhem Land, creating employment opportunities and pathways for young women as they protect, restore and enhance the unique natural environment that they manage.

Arnhem Land is home to some of the most biodiverse and culturally rich Aboriginal Lands in Australia. While conservation work has historically been performed by men, the presence of women in ranger workforces is integral as they have exclusive access to certain places throughout the landscape. Women are the holders of very specific ecological knowledge, passed down through generations, including knowledge of animal behaviour, habitat specifics and traditional management techniques. Women’s engagement on Country is crucial as traditional ecological knowledge is at risk of being lost if there are no women to enable it to be recorded and passed on.

The Warddeken and Mimal Women’s Ranger Programs, outlined below, provide flexible, welcoming and culturally appropriate opportunities for women, improving health and wellbeing and increasing pride and sense of self. As their programs have matured, both Warddeken and Mimal have sought to establish specific conservation programs, coordinated by women, to engage women. The direct result of consultation with Traditional Owners has led to increased equality in their workforces and broadened the scope of their conservation work with the skills and knowledge women bring to their organisations.

Lorraine Namarnyilk, a Daluk (Women’s) Ranger has said: “Women together is a good way to work. Sometimes we mix it up with the men but when we work together we have a lot of fun – we talk about culture, our family, the Country we work in and our relationship to it. I love working as a ranger because of the different opportunities to do all kinds of work that helps keep the Country healthy. This is the best job that I’ve had and I want to keep learning more and getting more work done.”

Photo care of Warddeken Land Management Limited

The Warddeken Daluk (Women’s) Ranger Program:

This team, established in 2016, has over 72 women working across kunwarddebim (rock art) surveying and conservation, mentoring and teaching children through the Nawarddeken Academy and providing much of the workforce for the Mayh (Species) Recovery Project. At the centre of this project is the Mayh Monitoring Network, a long term ecological monitoring program consisting of 120 monitoring sites, sampled using remote sensing cameras.

The Foundation for National Parks & Wildlife (FNPW) is a proud supporter of the Mayh (animals) Recovery Project. Warddeken Rangers, working with an in-house ecologist, are fine-tuning the way they manage their 1.4-million-hectare Indigenous Protected Area (IPA), to protect and enhance threatened and culturally important native species. By better understanding which Mayh remain in the landscape, where and why, rangers can adapt land management actions to conserve populations and the habitats they rely on.

Our support has allowed Warddeken Land Management Limited to begin a research project investigating the extent of two populations of the threatened Northern Quoll (djabbo), thought to be locally extinct.

Kylie Piper, National Projects & Education Manager, FNPW said: “FNPW learnt of the Mayh Project in 2019. Since that time we have seen them gather some of the most significant results for conservation from any project we have supported. The work undertaken by the daluk rangers has shown us the importance of ensuring that women are included and supported to work on Country.”

The project employs approximately 45 Indigenous rangers, with the majority being daluk (women) who make up 66% of the field work and 100% of the data processing team. Traditionally, Nawarddeken women played a key role in managing their Country, and while Indigenous Ranger programs like Warddeken have been one of the success stories of Australian conservation over the last decade, women had long been underrepresented in male-dominated ranger workforces.

The Mimal Women Rangers Program:

Established in 2018, this team (which currently makes up 48% of Mimal’s workforce) is involved in implementing conservation projects, including Savannah Glider research and preservation, and waterway rehabilitation. The rangers also work closely with local Gulin Gulin School, where they are implementing a program to support weekly, structured cultural and land management lessons between the rangers and school. Not only is this of benefit to the children, but the rangers themselves, whose confidence in their knowledge and teaching ability has grown.

Strong Women for Healthy Country Network:

With philanthropic support, this network is designed to help future women rangers overcome the barriers that could prevent them from joining the workforce, including a lack of appropriate support and professional development in male dominated workforces, inequities in working conditions and pay disparities, domestic violence, access to services, cultural and family responsibilities, limited access to quality primary and secondary education, and limited or no experience in the workforce.

Header photo of Daluk Rangers, Tineesha Narorrga and Alexandria Namarnyilk by Rowand Taylor.

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