Dr Sally Box, the Australian Government’s Threatened Species Commissioner, talks about the importance of working with Indigenous groups
to conserve Australia’s threatened species.
The knowledge, skills and dedication of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people are critical to the effective management of Australia’s environment and heritage.
A large number of threatened species in Australia occur almost exclusively on Indigenous-owned and -managed land. Indigenous rangers and Traditional Owners maintain strong connections to their land and their ongoing participation in threatened species recovery is essential. A unique understanding of the landscape and species on their Country as well as the application of traditional management practices benefit the recovery of many species that have their strongholds on these lands.
Over 200 Indigenous rangers and Traditional Owners met to discuss threatened and culturally significant desert species and landscapes at the Species of the Desert Festival in Mulan, Western Australia in June 2019. Image: Jaana Dielenberg / Indigenous desert alliance
In June, I attended the Species of the Desert Festival along with over 200 Indigenous rangers on the Paruku Indigenous Protected Area, where the night parrot was recently discovered. It was a great honour for me to be at this event to learn from the Traditional Owners and Indigenous rangers about the cultural significances of species that occur on their Country, what habitats they occupy and what they do to protect and manage them. Ensuring there are opportunities for Indigenous ecological knowledge to inform recovery planning, and continuing to collaborate with and learn from Traditional Owners will be important to protecting many of Australia’s threatened species into the future.
Dr Sally Box
The Australian Government’s Threatened Species Commissioner
Top image: Sally Box and Simon Nally at the Species of the Desert Festival. Behind them Indigenous rangers map potential night parrot habitat on their countries.
Kanyirninpa Jukurrpa (KJ) Rangers in the Martu Determination have collaborated with Threatened Species Recovery Hub scientists to design a monitoring program for mankarr (the greater bilby). Martu people identified priorities for the bilby monitoring program, then worked with Dr Anja Skroblin from The University of Melbourne to co-develop a monitoring method which brings together Martu knowledge and practice with Western conservation science.
I am a proud Murri from the Kamilaroi Nation in north-west New South Wales. I grew up in western Sydney on Darug land and now live in Canberra on Ngunnawal land.
A new project is aiming to increase city kids’ connections with nature, threatened species conservation and Indigenous culture. Dr Georgia Garrard from RMIT University talks about this project, which will see Wurundjeri Woi-wurrung Traditional Owners working with kids at Carlton North Primary School in Melbourne and Gunditjmara Traditional Owners working with kids at Heywood Consolidated School in western Victoria.
For the Larrakia Land and Sea Rangers, the sight of a shell midden in coastal saltpans tells a long history of culture and how their ancestors are connected with the intertidal and mangrove environment. Through a different lens, the Larrakia Rangers also see these shell middens as areas where their culture overlaps with the habitat used by the Critically Endangered migratory shorebird the far eastern curlew.
Threatened species on Indigenous land may be of prime interest to scientists and ecologists, but they are often not the species of greatest importance to the Indigenous landowners. Understanding local priorities for biodiversity is an essential step in ensuring that conservation projects are locally beneficial and supported. Researcher Tom Duncan from Charles Darwin University has been collaborating with the Tiwi Land Council and Tiwi Land Rangers to explore this issue on the Tiwi Islands.