Booningyah Junior Rangers Program

Community Conservation Grants 2021

  • YEAR: 2021
  • STATE: New South Wales
  • FOCUS AREAS: Cultural Heritage/Environmental Education/Healing our Land/Saving Species/SDG 13: Climate action/SDG 14 : Life below water/SDG 15: Life on Land/SDG 17: Partnerships for the goals/SDG 4: Quality education

In collaboration with Tweed Byron Aboriginal Land Council and the Foundation for National Parks & Wildlife, Green Heroes seeks to preserve native species and natural areas via an educational pilot program for local children in Fingal Head, NSW. The program helps to achieve a combined vision by working together to:

  • Educate young people on the importance of saving species on Letitia Spit that have been identified as vulnerable or endangered
  • Provide ways in which young people can take action to save species
  • Create awareness in the wider community of the ecological significance of Letitia Spit for native animal species and
  • Take action to regenerate land, waterways and habitat.

FNPW support

This project was funded through generous donations from FNPW supporters across Australia and beyond.

Grant round: Community Conservation Grants 2021

Project overview

In the 1970’s, Letitia Spit and other parts of Fingal Head came under the threat of heavy development from property investors who saw potential to erect a large resort and holiday accommodation to rival those in neighboring Coolangatta and the Gold Coast. The local Indigenous community fought tirelessly to save natural bushland in Fingal Head, Letitia Spit and Cook Island. As their campaign “Keep Fingal Special” gained traction, they were able to keep development away. The protection of the natural areas continue today by the elders of the area.

Many endangered species seek safe haven in Letitia Spit, including (but not limited to) glossy black cockatoos, beach stone curlews, oyster catchers, many small bird species, brush tailed phascogales and loggerhead turtles. As the elders age, they wish to pass on knowledge and responsibility of Caring For Country to the children who will one day have the responsibility of saving species and protecting the land. The Junior Rangers program aims to help impart stories, knowledge and culture to provide a means for children, youth and families to “take up the baton” from ageing Elders to continue Caring for Country, which is a theme central to Indigenous culture. The entire program is designed to be all inclusive of any members of the community wishing to participate or be involved in the range of activities.


This project is directed by the Tweed Byron Aboriginal Land Council in Fingal Head, in collaboration with Green Heroes.

FNPW supports projects across Australia. In the spirit of reconciliation the we acknowledge the Traditional Owners of Country and recognise their continuing connection to land, waters and culture.


The project is on-going. Please scroll for project news and updates!

This project was funded by FNPW in 2021.


Green Heroes is the lead organisation for this project.

Further information about our project partner can be found on their website:

Latest news on this project.

Passing Elders Fight to Protect Nature In Fingal to the Next Generation

Article Courtesy of Tweed Valley Weekly, with words by Jo Kennett

A group of young Indigenous Fingal Head residents recently completed their PADI Open Water Diver certificate as part of the 2021 Boonigyah Eco Ranger program, passing on the knowledge and responsibility of Caring for Country to the next generation. The program is managed by local environment group Green Heroes in collaboration with Tweed Byron Local Aboriginal Land Council, and sponsored by the Foundation of National Parks & Wildlife, and Tweed Club Grants.

“All the participating youth have lived in Fingal Head their entire lives and have always felt connected to the water,” Green Heroes Project Manger Sarah Jantos said. “This weekend, however, I observed a new flame ignite in the hearts of these young people when they considered Caring for Country in light of their new experiences and knowledge. They are completely motivated and inspired to do more”.

Junior Rangers were stoked to complete their PADI Diver Certification.

With the team of qualified instructors from Kirra Dive, the young people participated in Project AWARE- a program that supports divers acting in their own communities to protect the ocean, “with a focus on implementing lasting change in two core areas: shark conservation and marine debris.”

“The experience of breathing underwater was amazing,” one of the newly certified youth PADI divers told Sarah. “I never realised how many fish and organisms live down there. I can’t wait to get back in the water.”

The Boonigyah team will dive at Cook Island as part of Project AWARE in coming weeks. Sarah said the Tweed Byron Local Aboriginal Land Council, along with Elders, continue to preserve what is a critical refuge for land and aquatic native wildlife at Boonigyah (Fingal Head) while heavy development continues in surrounding areas. “Many endangered species seek safe haven on Letitia Spit including (but not limited to ) many migratory bird species, glossy black cockatoos, beach stone curlews, oystercatchers, small bird species, brush tailed phascogales, loggerhead turtle (nests) and many other species,” she said.

“Caring for Country is a theme central to Aboriginal Culture.”

Tweed Byron Local Aboriginal Land Council CEO Leweena Williams said, “Elders fought diligently to preserve and protect natural areas in Fingal for many decades, they have continued this cultural responsibility and the Boonigyah Eco ranger program is a result of this hard fought work.” ” It is this diligent protection of natural areas in Fingal Head that continues today as Tweed Byron Local Aboriginal Land Council works together with Elders, community and community groups,” Sarah said. “The eco rangers program aims to help impart knowledge and and the responsibility of preserving the land for the benefit of native flora, fauna and community. These continued efforts are simply part of the same story the Elders have continued to ‘Keep Fingal Special’.”

Booningbah Junior Rangers are now Certified PADI Divers

As part of the 2021 Boonigyah Eco Ranger program, Green Heroes and the Tweed Byron Local Aboriginal Land Council will continue preservation of native species and natural areas in Fingal and Cook Island via the Eco Rangers program for local children and youth. Sarah said that upcoming events include nesting box workshops, habitat gardens, weed removal and koala tree planting. Last week at the Tweed Shire Council Sustainability awards for 2021, Green Heroes was chosen as a trophy winner in the Wildlife and Habitat Conservation category for their outstanding efforts in the Tweed.


ABC Radio Interview: Eco Rangers Program

With FNPW’s Kylie Piper

Recently, our very own Projects & Education Manager Kylie Piper was interviewed by Kia Handley on ABC Radio about the Boonigyah Eco Rangers program. The project was given a Community Conservation grant from us last year and is run by Green Heroes and the Tweed Aboriginal Land Council.

Read the full interview transcript below to learn more about this incredible project.


KIA: “It’s something that’s inspiring young people, helping the environment, learning about culture, let’s learn about it all together: Kylie Piper is from the Foundation for National Parks & Wildlife, good morning!”

KYLIE: “Good morning!”

KIA: “You run, or are part of running a great eco ranger program at Fingal Head. Tell me about it, what do you do?”

KYLIE: (Laughs) “Well I can’t take credit for it! (Laughs) So the Boonigyah Eco Ranger is a junior Indigenous ranger program that we were so lucky to hear about and support through our Community Conservation Grants last year. It’s just been such a successful program, I’m so excited to talk to you about it.”

KIA: “Alright so tell me how it works, where’s it come from? What’s the history of the Eco Ranger program first?”

KYLIE: “So, the program is situated up in Letitia Spit, and for those who don’t know that’s around the Tweed Heads area. The local indigenous group up there has been fighting for the conservation of this area for years, since the 70’s, and now the Elders have been really, really keen to get young people involved and learn about the cultural heritage, but also the natural heritage there. Not just on land, but also in the sea. So, a fantastic woman, Sarah Jantos, from an organisation called Green Heroes called me last year and told me all about this project. She’s working really closely with the Tweed/Byron local Aboriginal land council to develop a project so that these young kids can be involved and really get out there and get amongst it. Get their hands dirty, get in the water, learn everything they can about the native species that are up there and really learn from the Elders about the importance of the land, sea, animals and plants, and the importance of protecting them. It’s just fantastic.”

KIA: “Yeah, by focusing on the younger generation and I guess bringing together that Elders knowledge and our, you know, our next generation who get to pass that on and try to keep it up, like what’s the benefit of that Kylie?

KYLIE: “Oh it’s impossible to overstate the importance of the impact when you integrate traditional knowledge into conservation programs. Not only do you get that range of people being involved, but also the long term benefit for conservation and the natural history but also outcome for the kids themselves. So, there were eight participants last year. It was the first year that it was run, eight participants did some amazing stuff. They went out there, they were planting, they were learning, they did some nest boxes so they could protect some of the birds and mammals around there, but they also did a dive course. Which I found just astounding! That these kids are out there learning about stuff in the water so they actually went out and did their Dive course. From there, at least two of the kids are now going on to do their Dive Masters. I call them kids I shouldn’t say-

KIA: (Laughs) “I was about to say how old are we talking about here? Have we got five year olds in the water with their like scuba pack on?”

KYLIE: (Laughs) “I shouldn’t say that, they are amazing young men and women who are out here doing this. They’ve been in the water, they’ve got their divers license, now there’s a couple of them that are going on to do their diver masters certificate, which if anyone out there is a diver they know how difficult that is, and have already been offered employment to continue marine conservation with some of the local organisations around Tweed Head. There’s a couple of others doing their other certificates so that they can be out on the boat, out there continuing doing stuff in the water. But the really important stuff is that these people are going to be mentors for next year. So, they are continuing their involvement with the program by mentoring the next cohort of people who are coming through, which I think is just fantastic.”

KIA:” Yeah so what do the young people say when they’ve been through this program? What sort of feedback are you hearing from them?”

KYLIE: “They love it! They absolutely love it. A lot of them that have never been diving before so just getting in the water and one of them said it just opened their eyes to a whole new world, which it does, if you’ve been underwater you just realise it is a completely new world when you get under there. And for them to be able to connect so much with their traditional land, I think, it’s just an amazing program and we’re so happy that it can continue to grow. We funded this through our Community Grants program, we gave them a tiny little bit of money to get going and we’re so happy that they’ve now go the support from their local council and from other funders as well to continue this because it’s been such a success and everyone can see how much these people who are engaged with it, are benefitting from it. And the traditional owners are benefiting from it, it’s just great.”

KIA: “Yeah cause basically you get to, you know, create young ambassadors who yes get to mentor and go on and maybe find jobs but they’re also, every time they have a conversation with someone in the community that helps too when they’re like ‘Oh hey no this is actually what I learnt”. That is invaluable. You can’t really measure that Ambassadorship when it comes to conservation.”

KYLIE: “Exactly, and part of this program is also making those communications campaigns so they learn how to talk to people about the natural and cultural heritage, they get out there in their community, they teach other people, even without being involved in the program itself. It’s teaching the local community about what’s happening there. They do simple things like marine debris, picking up rubbish, those sorts of stuff, which is so essential in preserving these really precious marine habitats, and once they start talking to local people, get them engaged, it’s amazing where it could go from here.”

KIA: “How do you think it could work? You know, obviously the Foundation for National Parks & Wildlife does work right around New South Wales, how do you think you can take a model like this and maybe see how it can work in other areas Kylie?”

KYLIE: “Well we’re actually a national organisation and we fund a number of programs across Australia through our Community Grants program, and in fact we have our community grants program open at the moment. So if there’s anyone out there, who is working with junior rangers, who is an Indigenous organisation or an Aboriginal land council who is looking to work with junior rangers, grants are currently open Head in there, we’d love to hear from you because there’s a real opportunity to build these junior programs. They work so well, getting young people engaged on the ground is such a simple way to get them involved in conservation and long term work with the traditional owners and the Elders. The Green Heroes guys have done such a good job working closely with the traditional owners up there. They don’t do anything, absolutely nothing that isn’t directed from the local Aboriginal land council and the Elders themselves, and that is the most important thing. So that’s why we’d love to hear from any land councils out there or any Indigenous organisations who are working with young people.

KIA:” How long do they have to get that application in fort a grant Kylie?”

KYLIE: “It doesn’t close for another month, so plenty of time.”

KIA: “Perfect. Excellent, well hopefully we’re inspiring a heap of amazing applications coming through and we make it really hard for you and the team to pick which ones get grants!

KYLIE: “Please give me more work! (Laughs)”

KIA: “Well you heard that here first, it’s an exclusive- Kylie Piper wants more work. Hope your boss isn’t listening this morning Kylie.”

KYLIE: “Yeah so do I! (Laughs)

KIA: “Lovely to catch up with you and hear more about this. Thank you for telling us about it.”

KYLIE: “Thank you so much”.