More than 20 Indigenous Rangers and other Traditional Owners converged on Parliament House in Canberra on Wednesday for an event marking 25 years of Indigenous Protected Areas.
There are currently 84 Indigenous Protected Areas in Australia, covering over 94 million hectares of land and sea Country, which now contribute to over 50 per cent of Australia's reserves on lands.
Indigenous Rangers are on the frontline, protecting environment and culture across vast, remote swathes of land from the impacts of climate, extreme weather events, invasive species, and biosecurity.
Indigenous Rangers and Traditional Owners journeyed from the Great Sandy Desert, Tiwi Islands, SE Arnhem Land, the Kimberley, SW Victoria, northern NSW, and Far North Queensland to present a new film - Indigenous Protected Areas – Keeping Country Strong - and to discuss the challenges ahead with Labor, Liberal, Greens and independent MPs, crossbench senators, and Ministers.
Organised by non-profit Country Needs People, the event featured Ministers Tanya Plibersek and Linda Burney, and was hosted by Assistant Minister for Climate Change and Energy, Senator Jenny McAllister.
Country Needs People CEO Patrick O'Leary told National Indigenous Times that Indigenous Protected Areas are "an incredible success story" for Australia after 25 years.
"We can't be complacent, we have to keep our focus," he said.
"This is one of the biggest networks of protected areas in the world all run by traditional owners, that's an incredible legacy to continue. It's critical that we see the work of Indigenous Rangers and Indigenous Protected Areas as part of the incredible value traditional owners are bringing through their efforts managing country, their local organisations.
"But this is tough work, and we need to see these organisations supported with strong, structured, funding arrangements that can help them strengthen their own work. This is how we should be thinking about biodiversity protection and informed cultural management going into the future.
"Let's look at Indigenous Protected Areas and the work Indigenous Rangers are doing as worthy of support in its own right, an initiative that brings multiple benefits to people, country, culture and through ongoing jobs, supports families and community life."
Alongside 47 Indigenous Partners, Country Needs People grows, secures, and advocates for Indigenous land and sea management Australia-wide to ensure Traditional Owners and their organisations are properly supported into the future.