A transformative plan to create over 210 Indigenous ranger jobs in remote communities and stimulate WA’s regional economy through the creation of a major new parks network will be launched today in Perth.
The plan to convert five million hectares of former pastoral lease properties – collectively twice the size of the South West – into national parks and to have them managed by new Indigenous ranger teams would generate regional tourism opportunities, significant state budget savings and iconic tourism destinations for all Western Australians to enjoy.
The ‘Create Ranger Parks’ plan, launched in Kings Park today, is backed by an unprecedented diversity of non-government, community and Aboriginal organisations, including Reconciliation WA, 4WD peak body Track Care WA, Conservation Council of WA and Indigenous ranger organisations from the southern rangelands.
An independent economic assessment of the plan by Social Ventures Australia found that 212 ranger jobs would be created and further jobs generated in tourism and other industries associated with management of the parks.
The assessment also found that for every dollar invested in the plan, $3.70 of value would be created for Western Australia, of which $2.30 is direct benefit to the WA Government – in priority budget areas such as health, housing and policing.
“This is a breakthrough plan for regional growth that would marry two of Australia’s great success stories – Indigenous ranger programs and national parks – to protect an area of WA’s Outback nearly the size of Tasmania,” said David Mackenzie, WA Outback manager for the Pew Charitable Trusts.
“These properties were purchased by the government for conservation twenty years ago due to their high natural and cultural heritage values. These values need to be protected into the future as part of the conservation reserve and through hands-on management by locally recruited Indigenous rangers,” Mr Mackenzie said.
Indigenous ranger programs are already a success in many parts of Australia, including elsewhere in the state, but this would be the first permanent state-funded ranger program in WA. An assessment for the office of Prime Minister and Cabinet in July this year found Indigenous ranger programs are transformative for communities – offering real jobs in remote areas and producing unmatched results for Indigenous people through improved health, education and social outcomes.
Nyaparu Rose, CEO of the Nyangumarta Warrarn Aboriginal Corporation, supports the proposal to create new Indigenous ranger programs in WA’s Outback, based on the success of the Nyangumarta Warrarn ranger program in WA’s north.
“The ranger program is important because it gets the younger generation out on country, mentored by elders who look after country and our significant cultural sites. The rangers work with our cultural ways but we also bring in professionals and scientists to work with us, to help protect and care for country,” Ms Rose said.
“Living and working on country is like medicine for my people. Being a ranger is meaningful work that gives us hope for the future. But there are not enough ranger jobs in Western Australia, so this proposal is important so that more young people can get out on their country and look after the land,” Ms Rose said.
Under the Create Ranger Parks plan, Indigenous rangers will also manage and maintain essential tourism infrastructure on the new parks, working in conjunction with local communities and volunteer groups to generate new tourism opportunities for all Western Australians.
The Chairperson of WA’s peak four-wheel drive body Track Care WA, Dr John H Collins, said that volunteers from Track Care WA have already assisted with the restoration of pastoral heritage sites on proposed parks.
“We welcome increased management on the former pastoral lease properties. We particularly welcome the opportunity for more Western Australians to access and enjoy these properties now, and into the future,” Dr Collins said.