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Greg Hunt MP
Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister for the Environment and Heritage
Federal Member for Flinders
31 March 2006
Greg Hunt MP, Parliamentary Secretary with ministerial responsibility for Booderee National Park, today launched an innovative Junior Rangers program at Jervis Bay Primary School, in south east NSW.
The program will mean around 65 children between four and 12 years of age will spend two hours a fortnight visiting Booderee National Park, learning first hand about their spectacular local environment and the ways local Aboriginal traditional owners have cared for country for tens of thousands of years.
"The program is all about creating excitement amongst children with regards to the environment around them - in particular in creating an understanding and respect for Aboriginal culture. We hope to inspire some children to become the next generation of national park managers," Mr Hunt said.
"The first step is to stimulate a thirst for knowledge, and to keep children passionate about schooling."
"When we trialled this program at Uluru in the Northern Territory and we found that it positively affected school attendance rates, especially among Aboriginal children. For many Indigenous children, this was the first time that their elders and their culture had been part of the school curriculum. They love coming to school for Junior Ranger days - and so, too, do all their non-Indigenous classmates, whose eyes are opened to a whole new way of looking at the land around them."
Mr Hunt said the Wreck Bay Aboriginal Community, the Jervis Bay Primary School and Booderee rangers had worked together to devise a syllabus that fits in with the state curriculum - but with all of Booderee as the classroom.
The Junior Ranger program is the first step to a more extended program which will be linked with work experience and employment in Booderee National Park. Booderee has strong links with universities and research institutions, which will offer additional opportunities for children to explore careers in science, and natural and cultural management.
"I'm excited about the prospect of linking Booderee National Park into regional employment opportunities," Mr Hunt said.
"Many park positions are quite technical and demanding - they require tertiary studies. We hope that Junior Rangers will help motivate Aboriginal children to stay at school, to go on to higher education and come back and work on their land. We hope to inspire non-Aboriginal children as well to explore fascinating careers in our national parks."
Kristy McSweeney (Mr Hunt's Office) 0415 740 722