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First Nations wisdom harnessed to protect environment

Kat Wong -

The number of Indigenous rangers is set to double by 2030 as part of federal government efforts to close the gap and centre First Nations knowledge in environmental protection.

Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people have been caretakers of Australia's diverse environments and its wildlife for tens of thousands of years.

The Indigenous rangers program has helped combine this traditional knowledge with conservation training to help protect ecosystems across the country.

Minister for Indigenous Australians Linda Burney will announce on Friday the scheme will receive a $359 million boost to increase the number of Indigenous rangers from 1900 to 3800 by 2030.

It will also help the government as it attempts to lift the employment rate of First Nations Australians from 55.7 per cent in 2021 to 62 per cent by 2031.

"With more than 65,000 years of experience caring for country, Indigenous Rangers hold unique and valuable skills in managing Australia's natural environment," Ms Burney said.

"This will mean more Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people will have the opportunity to do things like protect precious endangered species and control weeds and feral animals."

The investment prioritises establishing new Indigenous Rangers Groups in protected areas that don't already host the program, and hiring more First Nations women as they currently represent just 33 per cent of the program's workforce.

"First Nations women and girls are vital in protecting sacred and cultural sites, and offer a range of unique skills and lore," Ms Burney said.

"It's important they have the opportunity to continue the work of their mothers, grandmothers and all their women ancestors and pass this knowledge onto the next generation, because there are no text books, no manuals."

Linda Burney says Aboriginal people have 65,000 years of experience caring for country. (Mick Tsikas/AAP PHOTOS)

The announcement comes as Environment Minister Tanya Plibersek revealed Ronald Archer as the new director of national parks.

A Djungan man from the Western Tablelands in north Queensland, Mr Archer's appointment makes him the first Indigenous Australian to hold the position.

As part of his new role, he will be responsible for the protection and conservation of the Uluru and Kakadu national parks alongside other marine parks.

"As Australia's first First Nations person to hold the position, I look forward to supporting and strengthening the role of traditional custodians in caring for their country in partnership with Parks Australia," Mr Archer said.

"We have an amazing opportunity to make greater impact in the ways we manage our natural and cultural resources whilst supporting and strengthening the skills and expertise of our stakeholders."

Kat Wong - AAP

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