Caring for country: First Nations land management

First Nations STEM stories
In her STEM role as Women's Ranger Coordinator, Chantelle Murray (left) is merging two worlds to protect our country.

As traditional land owners, Indigenous people have deep expertise in land management

Fire management, plant and animal surveys and teaching traditional languages is all in a day’s work for the Ngurrara Rangers in the Kimberley region of Western Australia.

“There is heaps of stuff that the rangers do,” says women ranger coordinator Chantelle Murray. “We all learn new stuff every day in this job and that is the best part about it.” A big part of the rangers’ work is merging their traditional knowledge with Western techniques to take care of over 77,000 square kilometres of country, from feral animal management to conserving biodiversity.

One project is exploring how jilas (living waterholes) and jumus (soakwater waterholes) connect with groundwater systems. Working in partnership with Shell and the Ngurrara Traditional Owners, the rangers use stories and songs from elders to help them locate these waterholes so they can gather data about water quality and quantity.

First Nations rangers use stories and songs to help them locate waterholes.

The rangers are also conducting plant and animal surveys along the Canning Stock Route, an 1,850-km track that runs from Halls Creek to Willuna. Ngurrara manage 10 wells in their area. “Our partners help us with the science stuff, like identifying animals, and we bring the cultural knowledge that we already have,” says Chantelle.

“Blending these two worlds paints a clearer picture of how we can protect our country and the threatened species within our land.”

When she isn’t out on country, Chantelle is helping the women rangers develop their career goals and connect them with mentors that can help them take the right steps. “Having that mentoring really helped me see outside the box and learn more,” she says.

This article originally appears in Careers with STEM: Indigenous 2020.

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Gemma Conroy

Author: Gemma Conroy

Gemma is a freelance journalist with a passion for making science accessible to everyone. Gemma has a degree in biology from Macquarie University and loves sharing amazing discoveries with the world.

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