One of the biggest challenges for Australia’s remote indigenous communities is creating real and meaningful employment. Without it, people become trapped in the downward spiral of welfare dependence, and younger people drift away to larger urban centres, where their future is not always going to be brighter.
In north and western Queensland, a relatively new program has been showing very promising results. Local traditional owners are employed by local Aboriginal organisations as indigenous rangers, looking after country. They do important work, caring for indigenous land, national parks and sea country.
The indigenous rangers use their culturally informed understanding of country to monitor and preserve environments, often working with scientists to study wildlife and fauna, and deal with invasive plant and weed pest species.
So far the Queensland Government funds 53 indigenous rangers in the north and west of the state. Five of them work for the Laura Rangers, in a town with a regular population of about 100. Over the past few weeks, the population swelled to many times that, as crowds came to town for the Laura races and rodeo, and the Laura Dance Festival.
Listen to stories of the Laura Dance Festival, the famous Quinkan rock art, and meet the Laura Rangers.
My thanks to Sue Marsh at the Laura Rangers and Lyndal Scobell at Cape York N-R-M for their help in preparing that report.