Larrakia Rangers know their worth

A recent collaboration between Charles Darwin University (CDU) and Larrakia Land and Sea Rangers has triggered a positive change in the how our rangers work with researchers. “This collaboration set the benchmark for future collaborations with Larrakia Rangers and researchers” said Ranger Manager Ben Smith.

The success is because the project was designed with two-way learning outcomes. In the past when rangers worked with researchers, the flow of information was usually one way. Rangers gave researchers information, and commonly the researchers would complete the research project but not share the research outcomes with the rangers. This is an issue not just for the Larrakia Rangers, but for ranger groups throughout the Territory.

Gabrial Millar is a Senior Larrakia Ranger and was involved in the CDU collaboration. “Previously researchers have focussed on what they want, instead of taking the time to make sure both parties are getting what they want. Now we can go into future collaborations with the confidence that our cultural knowledge is as valuable as their scientific or research knowledge.

“Indigenous knowledge is not biased; it includes the big things and the really little things. Sometimes researchers come wanting to do things in a certain way whereas Indigenous rangers may have different practices that are more efficient.”

Untitled design - 2022-08-29T162401.729 Untitled design - 2022-08-29T162337.822

Commitment to learning for both the short term and long term

Led by Amanda Lilleyman from the Threatened Species Recovery Hub at CDU, the project used a two-way learning approach where both the researchers and the rangers were able to benefit. The project design was deemed such a success it was published in the Conservation Science and Practice Journal. (link to the article here)

“Amanda’s objective was to research the endangered far eastern curlew and together we adapted the project around what she needed and around ranger’s capabilities. From there we were able to build on our training needs. Amanda got to know every ranger individually, their capabilities and what they wanted to get out of the project.” said Gabrial.

While Amanda needed to collect data, it was the rangers who were taught to manage and analyse the data because this was something they wanted to learn. Data management skills transfer has been valuable for the rangers, but of equal value for Amanda was the knowledge of the environment shared by the rangers which meant finding, recording and monitoring the curlew was better.

For Rangers Steven Dawson and Alan Mummery being involved in the project and learning about surveying has meant they can apply these skills to collecting data on other shorebirds important to Larrakia people. “Going out doing the surveys meant I learnt more about the different shorebirds on my country,” said Steven. Today the shorebirds database is the largest database owned by the rangers.

Working together creates better conservation outcomes for all parties

Being a part of this project has had a huge impact on understanding the worth of ranger groups more broadly. “Now when we sit down with researchers, we are far better equipped to say what we need to get out of the research. It’s really important to set the standard so they know they have to give a little too. After this collaboration we go into meetings with researchers more confidently knowing we can give as much as they can” said Gabrial.

Larrakia Rangers believe a two-way learning model should be applied to all research projects conducted in the NT. The knowledge of rangers and Traditional Owners will improve outcomes for researchers which will have a positive impact on their conservation objectives. Equally important is being assertive about what ranger groups need so we can do better and improve conservations outcomes for our land and sea.

“I think a lot of people come here and don’t even consider consulting with us. We want people to understand that if people are doing research on Larrakia Country or any Indigenous land, they should be consulting with the Traditional Owners or the ranger group for that land” said Gabrial.

“When we are excluded, we can’t benefit from their research and the researcher can’t benefit from our extensive knowledge. Working together will create better conservation outcomes for all research projects carried out in the NT.”