Kullilli Traditional Owner, Cassy Stevens says energy giant Santos's new $12 million investment in a ranger program means First Nations people could implement traditional knowledge to their Country.
Santos and its Cooper Basin joint venture partners will team up with five Traditional Owner groups in southwest Queensland and northeast South Australia, including the Wongkumara, Kullilli and Boonthamurra people, a partnership set to create jobs, help care for Country and protect the environment.
"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."
Wongkumara Traditional Owner, Hope Ebsworth, said it was important the Traditional Owners made decisions about their own Country.
"We control our culture and Santos is helping us protect our land, and that's what I want," Mr Ebsworth 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."
Santos chief executive and managing director, Kevin Gallagher said the company respected and honoured the rights of Traditional Owners to speak for themselves and their Country.
"We are committed to looking at new ways of working so that Aboriginal communities share in the benefits of our projects," Mr Gallagher said.
"In southwest Queensland, we're passionate about working with Traditional Owners to continue to protect the natural and cultural values of the Cooper Basin which is part of the broader Lake Eyre Basin.
"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.
"This ranger program will allow for Traditional Wongkumara, Kullilli and Boonthamurra Owners to further care for and connect with their Country, including through the management of feral animals and weeds, soil conservation and biodiversity monitoring programs."
Santos will work with the Traditional Owner groups to finalise details of the ranger program, which is expected to launch in 2024.