$12M for Indigenous-led ranger program
Indigenous rangers protect and manage their ancestral lands, preserving cultural heritage and promoting environmental conservation through a combination of traditional knowledge and modern practices.
In acknowledgement of this critical work, Santos, along with its Cooper Basin joint venture partners, has announced it will invest up to $12 million for a ranger program in partnership with Traditional Owner groups.
This initiative aims to enable First Nations people to apply traditional knowledge, create employment opportunities and safeguard the environment.
The collaboration includes five Traditional Owner groups from the Wongkumara, Kullilli, and Boonthamurra people, located in southwest Queensland and northeast South Australia.
The program will complement existing Lake Eyre Basin Rangers, based out of Longreach and Mount Isa, and whose Country is north of the Cooper Basin JV operations and the Country of the Wongkumara, Kullilli and Boonthamurra people.
It will allow the groups to further care for and connect with their Country, including through the management of feral animals and weeds, soil conservation and biodiversity monitoring programs.
Traditional Owners welcome announcement
Traditional Owners Cassy Stevens (Kullilli) and Hope Ebsworth (Wongkumara) both hailed the announcement.
“Our people have recently acquired the pastoral lease to the iconic Thargomindah Station which means we, the Kullilli people, can finally go home to the banks of the Bulloo River after more than a century of dispossession,” Ms Stevens said.
“This ranger program will help us to implement our traditional knowledge alongside innovative land management and sustainable agricultural practices to regenerate native forest and heal Country.”
Mr Ebsworth emphasised the importance of traditional owners having their say.
“We control our culture and Santos is helping us protect our land, and that’s what I want. It is important that as Traditional Owners, we speak for and make decisions about our own Country,” he said.
“Working with Santos, I got stuff done that I would never even dream of getting done, like fencing and protecting our sites. I am so proud because I’m protecting everything I can and that’s my life and Santos plays a big part in that.”
The announcement reinforces the industry’s commitment to respecting the rights of Traditional Owners.
Industry builds on track record
Kevin Gallagher, CEO and Managing Director of Santos, said the company had worked in the Cooper Basin in southwest Queensland and northeast South Australia for more than 60 years and had developed long-standing relationships with Traditional Owners.
“We respect and honour the rights of these Traditional Owners to speak for themselves and for their Country,” he said.
“We value the agreements we have in place with them that enable our operations to be carried out in a way that protects and conserves their cultural heritage, and that provide a range of social, cultural and economic benefits to the rightful Traditional Owners.”
Mr Gallagher pointed to recognition of the Lake Eyre Basin as pristine river systems, after more than 60 years of resources development, as testimony to the environmental sustainability of the industry’s activities.
“We are committed to working in this very special place in a way that continues to protect cultural connection and heritage, water resources and the environment, for generations to come,” he said.
The natural gas industry will collaborate with the traditional owner groups to finalise the specifics of the ranger program, set to launch in 2024.
The venture marks a significant step towards bridging the gap between environmental protection and Indigenous heritage, demonstrating harmonious coexistence between modern conservation practices and traditional wisdom.
Click here to learn more about how companies such as Santos proactively partner with Indigenous groups and communities to build respectful and mutually beneficial relationships and deliver positive outcomes for Indigenous people.
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