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Nyiyaparli rangers, Rio Tinto ink deal to protect important Pilbara wetlands

Tom Zaunmayr -

A Pilbara ranger group will boost its efforts to restore Country and connection to culture through a new partnership with Rio Tinto.

Karlka Nyiyaparli Aboriginal Corporation in September secured a two-year funding deal with Rio Tinto to expand the Nyiyaparli ranger program which looks after Mangkurtu (Fortescue Marsh) in Western Australia's Pilbara, near Newman.

The partnership will enable the purchasing of new field equipment, support for up to eight new ranger jobs and career development.

Dubbed the Healthy Country Plan, the Traditional Owner-led program will incorporate Nyiyaparli knowledge to guide land and cultural management activities in the Nyiyaparli native title determination area.

KNAC ranger program coordinator Melissa Pepper said the program was a long-term ambition for Nyiyaparli people.

"This partnership with Rio Tinto has provided a valuable stepping-stone in the establishment and growth of the Nyiyaparli ranger program, through support for the development of planning tools, job-ready training, and the purchase of essential equipment," she said.

"Nyiyaparli are particularly proud to see young people engaged in their culture on Country, and families spending time together on-Country sharing knowledge with the next generation through the Healthy Country Plan."

Mangkurtu will be the initial focus for the rangers, but other culturally important areas such as Weeli Wolli Creek will also be included in the program.

Rio Tinto health, safety, environment and communities vice president Cecile Thaxter said the plan would create an employment pipeline for future generations of Nyiyaparli people.

"Rio Tinto is grateful for its long-standing relationship with the Nyiyaparli people and the opportunity to support the expansion of the ranger program which provides social, cultural and environmental benefits," she said.

"We recognise the importance of partnering with the Nyiyaparli people to preserve and restore the rich cultural and environmental values of their country."

The marsh has been recognised as being at-risk to the effects of climate change, with a 2018 management plan noting its isolated nature may lead to localised extinctions.

That WA Government report found temperatures could increase by nearly three degrees by 2050, but it was unclear whether it would become wetter or drier due to unpredicable cyclone seasons.

The new Healthy Country plan is expected to be finalised by early 2023, with caring for country activities to be commenced soon after.

A casual pool of rangers will support the new roles expected to be created.

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