Working remotely in the northern territory

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Case Study Working on Country


The Warddeken Indigenous Protected Area covers an impressive

1,394,951 hectares of spectacular stone and gorge country on the western Arnhem Land plateau. The isolated plateau is home to dozens of endemic plants, a host of threatened species and possibly a new and unique ecological community–sandstone heath lands.

A number of clans of the Bininj Kunwok language group are the area’s

Traditional Owners and have always maintained a close relationship to their country.

Warddeken Land Management Limited, an Indigenous environmental charity, employs rangers to assist in the protection and management of this biodiverse landscape, combining traditional ecological knowledge with western science and technology.

Working on Country


The Warddeken Indigenous ranger group undertakes a range of environmental management activities in accordance with the Warddeken IPA management

plan. Activities include an annual fire management program across 40 Indigenous clan estates, undertaking biodiversity surveys, managing key threatening proceses, controlling invasive grassy weed infestations such as mission and gamba grass infestations, and feral animal management, such as surveying for tramp ants, mapping buffalo damage and monitoring cats, pigs, black rats, bees and cane toads.

Despite the importance of the work, the group faces considerable challenges recruiting for full-time positions and maintaining workforce stability due to the remote location of the plateau and the difficult nature of the work.
For more than half the year the rangers’ base camp

at Kabulwarnamyo, and the plateau more generally, is

inaccessible by road due to monsoonal flooding.

On the plateau there are no shops, medical services, postal service or mobile phone access. There is no regular passenger transport air service and the cost of a shopping or medical trip to the nearest town of Jabiru

can be more than $1000. Meticulous planning is needed

to ensure sufficient supplies and equipment stores are

in place prior to the start of the wet season
The group offers flexible employment options, such as short-term contracts which promote engagement with elder Indigenous experts, and provide a valuable

introduction to work for those new to work or not ready for a permanent working life on the remote plateau.

The Warddeken ranger group relies on funding and support from a range of government and non- government sources to meet its objectives. The group has formed successful partnerships with groups such

as Bushfires NT, neighbouring ranger groups (including Kakadu National Park), Biodiversity NT, Australian Quarantine and Inspection Service, Australian National University and Charles Darwin University. For over a decade, Warddeken rangers have been working with the NT Government Bushfires and Biodiversity Unit on how vegetation and fauna native to the west Arnhem plateau responds to fire. Specific research has also been conducted on endemic and threatened species of

the Warddeken IPA which include cycads, Allosyncarpia ternata (anbinnik), Callitris intratropica (anlarrk) and

the sandstone heath communities as well as the endangered Golden backed tree rat Mesembriomys macrurus.

Working on Country is engaging Traditional Owners in effective land management of the plateau, and is providing many Indigenous people with meaningful paid employment for the first time in their lives.

Caring for our Country is administered by a joint team of the Department of Sustainability, Environment, Water, Population and Communities and the Department of Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry.

Photo credits: Indigenous land management (Steve Strike), Warddeken rangers clearing a fire break (Peter Cooke), Remote bush camp

at Kabulwarnamyo (Jeremy Freeman), Mission grass, an invasive weed (Colin Wilson), Clearing a fire break on the West Arnhem Plateau (Peter Cooke).

© Commonwealth of Australia 2012

Published April 2012

This work is copyright. Apart from any use as permitted under the Copyright Act 1968, no part may be reproduced by any process without prior written permission from the Commonwealth. Requests and enquiries concerning reproduction and rights should be addressed to Department of Sustainability, Environment, Water, Populations and Communities, Public Affairs, GPO Box 787 Canberra ACT 2601

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