Indigenous rangers offer invaluable support to Reef and sea country

Seventeen Indigenous rangers will become marine park inspectors today, boosting the ability of Traditional Owners and local communities to help protect the Great Barrier Reef and sea country.

This marks the successful conclusion of the Australian Government’s pilot Indigenous Ranger Compliance Enhancement Program under the Specialised Indigenous Ranger Program (SIRP), which has seen 26 rangers graduate.

Today, 17 of these graduates obtained “Name and Address Inspector Powers”, which makes it an offence for suspected offenders to refuse to provide their names and addresses if rangers request these details for potential compliance action.

Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority field management director Richard Quincey said the qualifications enabled Great Barrier Reef Traditional Owners to be more involved in supporting and managing sea country.

“Indigenous rangers are invaluable as ‘eyes and ears’ in the Marine Park — many rangers come from, live and work in remote communities and bring extensive local knowledge and insights” Mr Quincey said.

“We’re delighted to have the Indigenous rangers involved in joint vessel patrols and aerial surveillance throughout the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park.

“Today’s graduates now have the formal powers to help us gather the evidence we need to support compliance actions, a major focus for the Marine Park Authority to protect the Reef and support its recovery.”

Girringun ranger Chris Muriata — who lives and works in the Cardwell region — graduated as an Indigenous ranger in 2016 and has now gained his marine inspector qualifications.

“Having inspector powers gives more credence to our roles as Indigenous rangers, especially with compliance being such a key issue and focus for protecting the Reef,” Mr Muriata said.

“It’s very rewarding to be able to get out on my country — and other Traditional Owner country too — and help Traditional Owners to manage that country.”

Building on the success of the three-year $2 million Specialised Indigenous Ranger Program pilot, which concluded in June 2017, the Australian Government is now funding a new $30 million Capacity Building for Indigenous Rangers Strategy to 30 June 2020.

Forty more Indigenous rangers will be trained and up to seven Indigenous compliance officers employed to protect the Marine Park.