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.”