Indigenous ranger program provides ‘huge benefits’ and ‘should be expanded’ 

Andrew Dickenson, Errol Eades, Shawn Colbung, Jackson Toovey and Ashleigh Woods are all Indigenous cultural rangers.  (Photo: Isabel Vieira)

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A group of eight Indigenous cultural rangers have graduated from South Regional TAFE, now additionally qualified to continue their crucial work around the Great Southern.

The cultural rangers, who focus on land and heritage management, recently received their Certificate III in Aboriginal Site Works after completing the nationally accredited course. 

The 14-unit course provided the graduates with training in survey mapping, site recording, heritage place protection, site registration and assessing and recording cultural landscapes.

Jackson Toovey, Shawn Colbung and Errol Eades were three of the graduates, all of whom are existing cultural rangers through Southern Aboriginal Corporation (SAC).

South Regional TAFE Lecturer David Guilfoyle said the course was designed to provide rangers with qualifications to enhance the vital conservation work they already undertake.

“There was a need identified by SAC for their rangers to get some qualifications for the awesome work they do around the Great Southern,” he said

“I think there is a critical need for cultural rangers across all these different layers of conservation, land management, heritage protection and land care.” 

Mr Colbung said the course had both cultural and community benefits.

“Just getting that training to identify sites is good experience and to be working with DBCA (Department of Biodiversity, Conservation and Attractions) and other Esperance rangers as well,” he said.

“The relationships we built with the organisations and other ranger groups is only going to help in the future.” 

Mapping out cultural landmarks 

As part of the course, the rangers mapped out sites of cultural significance across the Great Southern. 

Pibulmun-Wadandi Custodian Dr Wayne ‘Wonitji’ Webb was engaged to work with the team of rangers on methods of cultural mapping.

Through the cultural mapping program the rangers were able to lodge sites with the Department of Planning, Land and Heritage to have them officially registered and protected.

Mr Toovey said the rangers needed that kind of additional training around cultural mapping.

“It is a really good skillset to have,” he said.

Mr Eades said the course helped to inform their day-to-day tasks.

“With the course it enables us to make our job easier so that we know what we are looking for now,” he said.

“And for non-Indigenous people, they get to experience that side of work as well, the Noongar side.”

Mr Guilfoyle said expanding the ranger program was a a no-brainer. 

“It’s beyond the work they do, it’s a real social outcome for what the team brings to the community,” he said. 

“This is really a good kickstart to this movement of creating a new type of workforce or industry locally in the Great Southern, which will benefit everybody.”

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