Working on Country

Working on Country funded projects - NT

Projects in the Northern Territory

Crocodile Islands Rangers

Wesley Walarri on a sea patrol in the Crocodile Islands

Wesley Walarri on a sea patrol in the Crocodile Islands

Copyright Courtesy of Crocodile Island Rangers

The Crocodile Islands Rangers (CIR) manage the land and sea country of the Crocodile Islands, situated off the coast of north east Arnhem Land. The CIR program was established in 2010 from an initial donation of royalty funding from Senior Traditional Owner and 2012 Senior Australian of the Year Laurie Baymarrwangga, and is governed by an executive committee consisting of Traditional Owners from the region. The group is based at Milingimbi and is hosted by the Milingimbi & Outstation Progress Resource Association Inc (MOPRA).

The rangers manage approximately 40,000 hectares of land, 200km of coastline and 6000km2 of sea country within Castlereagh Bay, a site recognised as being of international conservation significance due to the large aggregations of migratory shorebirds, large seabird colonies and important marine turtle nesting beaches. The ranger group has a diverse work plan that includes marine debris cleanups, weed and fire management, pest animal control and quarantine, cultural site management, sea country patrols and surveillance operations, Indigenous knowledge transfer and community education and biodiversity surveys.

Tjuwanpa Women Rangers

Based in Hermannsburg (Ntaria), the Tjuwanpa Women Rangers began in October 2011 as a Community Development Employment Project (CDEP) delivered by Tjuwanpa Outstation Resource Centre Aboriginal Corporation. Supported through the expansion of Working on Country in the Northern Territory announced in December 2012, the Tjuwanpa Women Ranger program will continue to facilitate opportunities for Indigenous women to enhance their professional development in conservation and land management. The women will continue to manage natural and cultural resources within the Ntaria region, including sharing their traditional ecological knowledge among generations. "Akarkutja Warnka Mabaka Kaltjithika" meaning "older women and younger women all learning together" is important to the Western Aranda elders. In collaboration with the Central Land Council and the Parks and Wildlife Commission NT, the Tjuwanpa Women Rangers will undertake fire, weed and feral animal management across 4,500 hectares of land that includes five Aboriginal Land Trusts and the Finke Gorge National Park.

Yirralka Rangers

Yirralka Ranger taking blood samples of feral animals to send away to AQIS

Yirralka Ranger taking blood samples of feral animals to send away to AQIS


We want to protect our country and pass it on to our children in good shape but we also want to be able to live on it and to be nurtured by it as our ancestors always have done.
Laynhapuy Homelands Association Inc.

The Laynhapuy coastal area, rich in plant and animal life, has supported the Yolngu for at least 50,000 years. The Yolngu continue to live on their lands, maintain their traditions and culture and use traditional knowledge to manage their country. Oral histories and art include stories of contact with Macassan traders from eastern Indonesia long before Europeans set foot on the continent. In 2006, Laynhapuy became an Indigenous Protected Area to protect this unique and fragile environment of internationally significant wetlands and coastal landforms with the coast and seas home to endangered turtles and dugong.

The Laynhapuy Homelands Association established the Yirralka rangers in 2003 to undertake natural and cultural resource management activities within the Laynhapuy Indigenous Protected Area. The area is home to 39 species listed as threatened under various Northern Territory and Commonwealth legislative Acts.

The Yirralka rangers strive to protect and manage this remote part of Australia and its rich cultural and environmental assets. The rangers are providing environmental services including managing access to culturally significant sites; removal of marine debris, surveying and controlling feral buffalo and pigs; surveying and controlling weed infestations and wetland fauna; monitoring marine turtles and dugongs; protecting turtle nesting areas; and implementing a fire management program.

Anindilyakwa Rangers

Rangers Nicola and Ramalisha work with scientists to measure Quolls

Rangers Nicola and Ramalisha work with scientists to measure Quolls

Copyright: Anindilyakwa Land Council Photo: Kristyne Love

Our land and sea country is everything to us. It nourishes and sustains us. It contains the story of our history that stretches back forever. It teaches us our law and it celebrates our ancestors. It connects today's people to the past and holds the sites and signs that guide the men and women of our clans.
Anindilyakwa Indigenous Protected Area Management Plan

The Warnindilyakwa people, known by their language name Anindilyakwa, were brought to the Groote Eylandt archipelago on a series of song lines which created the land, rivers, animals and people and which named everything pertaining to the region. The Groote Eylandt archipelago is situated on the western side of the Gulf of Carpentaria. It covers around 300,000 hectares of land surrounded by 700,000 hectares of sea country.

The Anindilyakwa Indigenous Protected Area comprises the Groote Eylandt Archipelago in the Gulf of Carpentaria, 630 kilometres from Darwin in the Northern Territory. This diverse environment of pristine beaches, open woodland, rainforest and red sand dunes covers a combined land/sea area of around 10,000 square kilometres. The Archipelago includes Groote Eylandt, Bickerton Island, and numerous smaller islands. The waters of the Gulf of Carpentaria also provide the traditional owners with an enviable marine environment with reef systems and rich, Indigenous, commercial and recreation fisheries.

A unique feature of these islands is the absence of many feral animals common to the mainland. It is the largest area in Australia without introduced grazing animals such as pigs, buffalo, horses, cattle or donkeys. It also boasts plant communities that, in large, have not been farmed, grazed, forested or cleared. The rangers also work to ensure that the islands are kept free of cane toads.

The Anindilyakwa Land Council established an Aboriginal ranger team in 2002, that employs both men and women rangers. The rangers work to protect Groote Eylandt archipelago's unique values by identifying and monitoring threatened species such as the Northern Hopping Mouse, Northern Quoll and turtles, including protection of turtle nesting areas; controlling feral cats; monitoring and managing weeds; and monitoring and collecting marine debris. They also protect and restore terrestrial and aquatic habitats, manage cultural heritage sites, and record and document cultural knowledge. Both the men and women ranger groups conduct a Junior Ranger program to educate young people about men's and women's cultural and natural resource management.

Li-Anthawirriyarra Sea Ranger Unit

li-Anthawirriyarra Sea Ranger Unit on sea patrol

li-Anthawirriyarra Sea Ranger Unit on sea patrol

Copyright: Courtesy of Mabunji Aboriginal Resource Association Inc.

Yanyuwa country includes the Sir Edward Pellew Islands and the riverine and coastal areas of the southwest Gulf of Carpentaria. The seas around the eight large islands and more then 50 small islets, reefs and rocks of the Sir Edward Pellew Group provide extensive seagrass beds for dugong, turtle and other marine fauna. The mainland islands are home to large numbers of migrating seabirds and shorebirds.

Yanyuwa traditional owners established li-Anthawirriyarra (people of the sea) Sea Ranger Unit as a means for managing this vast estate. What started out as surveillance and monitoring operation by the Sea Ranger Unit has evolved into a role with longer term land and sea management planning in this remote region.

The unit works closely with Mabunji Aboriginal Resource Association. The rangers are employed to monitor and manage heritage sites such as Macassan camps; monitor and manage turtle and dugong populations and survey, map and eradicate feral animals.

Dhimurru Aboriginal Corporation

Ghost net log at Bremer

Ghost net log at Bremer

Copyright: Jane Dermer

The land will exist forever. It must be protected so that it will remain the same, so that it can be seen in the same way that the elders saw it in the past. Our vision and hope is that Yolngu will continue to use the land for all the generations to come.
Roy Dadaynga Marika MBE

The Gove Peninsula region of north east Arnhem Land consists of breathtaking coastline and hinterland country on the western edge of the Gulf of Carpentaria. Declared an Indigenous Protected Area in 2000, Dhimurru encompasses sandy beaches, rocky coastal islands, spreading mangroves and ancient dune systems. Inland, the Guwatjurumurru (Giddy River) flows through cascades and rock pools, before meandering through the coastal plain.

The traditional owners, the Yolngu people, belong to one of two basic divisions, or moieties, called Dhuwa and Yirritja. Everything in the Yolngu universe - spirit beings, plant and animal species, clan groups, areas of land and water are either Dhuwa or Yirritja.

In 1992, the Dhimurru Aboriginal Corporation was incorporated to protect Yolngu land in the face of increasing pressures from growing numbers of non-Yolngu residents. The Corporation manages more than 1,000 square kilometres of land in the region, including a 300 kilometre coastline, and employs Yolngu rangers to implement their Indigenous Protected Area plan of management. The rangers' work is highly regarded and in 2007 they were part of a group that won the prestigious Indigenous Banksia Environment Award for their work with ghost nets. Dhimurru (in partnership with Rio Tinto Alcan Gove and CSIRO) have won subsequent awards including the "2010 Indigenous Award - Caring for Country" and the "2010 Origin Gold Banksia Award" in recognition of the Yellow Crazy Ant Management Project.

The rangers' work also includes developing a heritage, natural and cultural resource management database system to guide planning and resource allocation, undertaking marine turtle recovery surveys and rescue, removing ghost nets and other marine debris. The team is actioning a threat abatement plan for the endangered Gove Crow butterfly, undertaking heritage surveys to identify Macassan sites, researching eradication of the Yellow Crazy ant and identifying new weed infestations. They are also conducting fauna surveys to begin measuring the impact of the cane toad invasion threat abatement plan and are mapping sea grass beds.

Passing on knowledge to the next generation is vital to Yolngu people therefore Dhimurru have teamed up with Yirralka rangers to deliver junior ranger activities in East Arnhem region.

Djelk Rangers

Djelk control site

Djelk control site

Copyright: Richard Brittingham

The Djelk Indigenous Protected Area covers more than 670,000 hectares of land and sea country, from the central Arnhem Land plateau to the Arafura Sea. The area straddles coastal and sub-coastal landscapes from islands to estuaries, rivers and international renowned wetlands, monsoon rainforests to tropical savannas.

Marine turtles breed on Djelk's coastline and islands, seasonal floodplains provide a home to Arafura file snakes and saltwater crocodiles, while the mangroves support species including the water mouse and mangrove monitor. Djelk's sandstone plateaus are thought to contain the richest variety of reptiles in the world with 90 species recorded.

The Bawinanga Aboriginal Corporation established the Djelk Rangers to represent the various language groups of the region and assist traditional owners with their land management needs and concerns. Their work covers 10,000 square kilometres of land, including 180 kilometres of coastline.

Djelk Rangers manage and monitor the recently declared Djelk Indigenous Protected Area in central Northern Arnhem Land. The Djelk Indigenous Protected Area covers 6,732 square kilometres of land and the entire bioregion comprises a coastal strip extending from just east of the Cobourg Peninsula to just north of the mouth of the Rose River in south-eastern Arnhem Land. It also includes the many offshore islands dotted along the coastline. The coastline and islands are significant marine turtle breeding habitats as well as significant seabird breeding, feeding and roosting habitats.

The area is managed by a team of over 30 male and female Djelk rangers who also work with a range of partners on a number of projects that control invasive species, maintain historical fire regimes, weed and feral animal control, preventing damage to sacred sites and the set up of junior ranger camps.

Tiwi Islands Marine Rangers

Ranger releasing Olive Ridley turtle from ghostnet

Ranger releasing Olive Ridley turtle from ghostnet

Copyright: Photo: Andrew Tipungwuti Courtesy of Tiwi Land Council

The Tiwi Islands lie 20km north of Darwin and comprise Melville Island and Bathurst Islands (Australia's 2nd and 5th largest islands respectively) and numerous smaller islands. The islands have a combined coastline of around 800km, much of which is inaccessible by road and therefore creating considerable challenges for management. The coastal area holds strong cultural significance to Tiwi people, and the main communities of Nguiu, Pirlangimpi and Milikapiti are located on the coastline. The Tiwi coastline also has an interesting history of utilisation by Macassan traders, early explorers, Japanese pearlers and traders.

The Tiwi Islands are listed as a site of conservation significance, for both their terrestrial and marine biodiversity values. The coastal and marine areas of the Tiwi Islands support internationally significant nesting sites for marine turtles, seabird rookeries and major aggregations of shorebirds.

Through the Working on Country project, the Tiwi Land Council employs a team of Aboriginal marine rangers who are based at Milikapiti and at Pirlangimpi.

The marine rangers undertake their work in line with the Tiwi Islands Regional Natural Resource Management Strategy. Activities of the marine rangers include coastal surveillance patrols, marine debris surveys, monitoring of Olive Ridley turtle nesting activity and crested tern rookeries, visitor site management and increasing community awareness about marine debris. The rangers provide input on coastal and marine management issues with various stakeholders to protect the high natural and cultural values of the region. The Tiwi Islands Marine Rangers work complements the land-based activities of the Tiwi Land Rangers, particularly on managing quarantine issues.

Warddeken Land Management Limited

Romeo Lane at Manamnam rock art site

Romeo Lane at Manamnam rock art site

Copyright: Courtesy of Warddeken Land Management, Photo: Daniel Hanisch

Warddeken Indigenous Protected Area covers an impressive 1,394,951 hectares of spectacular stone and gorge country on the western Arnhem Land plateau. The rugged and isolated plateau has been referred to as the "crown jewel of Northern Territory biodiversity" because of the significance and diversity of its plant and animal life.

The area is home to dozens of endemic plants, a host of threatened species and possibly a new and unique ecological community - sandstone heath lands. A number of clans of the Bininj Kunwok language group are the area's traditional owners and have always maintained a close relationship to their country.

Warddeken Land Management Limited employs Aboriginal rangers to assist in the protection and management of their country, combining traditional ecological knowledge with western science. The rangers undertake a range of environmental management activities in accordance with the Warddeken Indigenous Protected Area Plan of Management, which include fire management, feral animal and weed management.

An expansion of the ranger project, announced in December 2012, will support land and cultural heritage management activities including biodiversity and freshwater system monitoring at two recently established ranger satellite bases at Manmoyi and Kabulwarnamyo. The expansion will also ensure that the rangers continue to participate in the Western Arnhem Land Fire Abatement project, which delivers landscape scale conservation through best practice fire management regimes.

Case Study

Jawoyn Ranger Program

My hopes and dreams (for my people) would be
Look after your culture and stay living on your land
Margaret Katherine, from Jawoyn Stage 1 Indigenous Protected Area Management Plan, 2010

Jawoyn country covers an extensive area of around 50 000 square kilometres in the central Top End. It includes the regional centre of Katherine (about 300 km south of Darwin), the southern part of Kakadu National Park, Nitmiluk National Park and south-west Arnhem Land. The Jawoyn estate contains national and international sites of conservation significance, thousands of rock art sites and other sites of cultural significance.

In line with Jawoyn Traditional Owners aspirations to look after natural and cultural values of their country, the Jawoyn Ranger program was started in 1997. The program was reinvigorated in 2002 and now consists of a ranger team and Coordinator. The Jawoyn Rangers actively manage weeds, feral animals, fire, cultural heritage sites, and visitor impacts on Jawoyn lands. The rangers are also involved in measures to manage the impacts of pastoralism, agriculture, mining and urban development on Jawoyn lands.

The Jawoyn Rangers work with a range of stakeholders and partners in the Katherine region. This includes collaborating with Kakadu National Park and Nitmiluk National Park on fire management activities and with other ranger groups as part of a greenhouse gas abatement project in western Arnhem Land.

One of the focal areas for fine-scale fire management activities is the Yinberrie Hills near Edith Falls, an important breeding and nesting area for the largest known population of the endangered Gouldian Finch. The rangers work with NT Government staff to undertake annual monitoring of the Gouldian Finch population in this area. The rangers also work with Kakadu and Nitmiluk National Parks and neighbouring properties in the management of weeds and feral animals.

Anangu Rangers on Angas Downs

Feral camels

Feral camels

Copyright: Matt Salmon

Mixing Anangu customary knowledge - the Tjukurpa (law) with Piranypa (non-Anangu) scientific knowledge to improve wildlife habitat, enhance landscapes and harvest species on a sustainable basis.
A key strategy for the Angas Downs Anangu rangers.

The Angas Downs Indigenous Protected Area, located near the Imanpa Community, south of Alice Springs, stretches across more than 320,000 hectares of Australia's red centre, where the hot, arid sand plains reveal an incredibly rich biodiversity.

Rare birds such as the Painted Snipe make use of nationally-important wetlands, while animals like the vulnerable Mulgara (Dasycercus cristicauda), the Fawn Hopping mouse (Notomys cervinus) and reptiles like the Thorny Devil (Moloch horridus) all find a home here.

Angas Downs is also of great historical and cultural value to the Traditional Owners, the Anangu, with many culturally important sites including waterholes, engravings and ceremonial sites.

Angas Downs Station employs Aboriginal rangers to reduce erosion and vegetation destruction by feral animals, monitor fauna populations, and promote biodiversity through traditional fire management. Their work program also encourages the reintroduction of native species by restoring water sources and cleaning out traditional wells and by fencing off water access by feral animals such as camels and horses.

Thamarrurr Rangers

Thamarrurr Ranger

Thamarrurr Ranger

Copyright: Courtesy of Thamarrurr Rangers Photo: Jenifer Rahmoy

Much of the Thamarrurr Region is wilderness covering more than 5,000 square kilometres within the Daly River and Port Keats Aboriginal Land Trust. The coastal areas feature sandy beaches, mangrove swamps, wetlands, creeks and low hills; while inland the rivers carve courses through sandstone and support extensive tropical savanna woodland.

The Thamarrurr Rangers have been working in the area for six years and are based in the main township, Wadeye, one of the largest Indigenous towns in the Northern Territory.

The rangers have been employed to continue important environmental work. They patrol an area of 17,900 square kilometres and survey and control invasive weeds and feral animals, marine invertebrates and diseases.

Other activities include monitoring sea turtle populations, other threatened species and their habitats, managing fire, documenting and maintaining significant cultural sites, and passing on cultural knowledge to the next generation.

Warnbi Aboriginal Corporation - Kakadu Indigenous Ranger Program

The Black-footed Rock-wallaby or Warru (Petrogale lateralis) as it is known by Anangu, the traditional owners of the region, once lived all over the rocky hills of the APY Lands. However, due to predation and changes in fire regimes, the Warru is now one of South Australia's most endangered species. Ongoing concerns by Anangu for the declining warru population have resulted in their employment of rangers to work alongside scientists in efforts to recover the population.

The rangers work in accordance with the South Australian Warru Recovery Plan by monitoring warru survival rates and conducting predator control and fire management activities. The Warru Recovery Program also involves the management of a 100ha predator exclosure on the APY Lands which serves as a hardening off site for captive bred warru prior to their release into the wild. Since March 2011, sixteen captive warru have been released into this exclosure and their survival is closely monitored by the rangers. The rangers not only focus on recovery of this threatened and culturally significant species, but on educating young Anangu about caring for country and maintaining culture.

The successful collaboration between the APY Land Management warru rangers and scientists has resulted in the Warru Recovery Team winning the 2011 NAIDOC Caring for Country Award.

Werenbun Aboriginal Corporation - Kakadu Indigenous Ranger Program

In partnership with Kakadu National Park, the Werenbun Aboriginal Corporation, based at Wirnwirnmila near the Park's border, is supported through Working on Country to employ Aborignal people who wish to work in a national park environment. The program engages Aboriginal participants in ranger training and in implementing the Park's operations as set out under the Kakadu Plan of Management.

Kakadu National Park hosts program participants who are employed in a diverse range of roles across fields including park operations, threatened species management, natural and cultural heritage management, integrated feral species control, compliance and wildlife management, and tourism/visitor management. National Park staff provide direction and supervision for KIRP rangers, and the rangers attend training activities and meetings with the National Park staff.