Tiwi Land Rangers: The eyes and ears of our Top End

Willy Rioli, Tiwi Land Ranger Supervisor and Mentor

Australia’s pristine environment is one of our nation’s greatest assets.

It’s a reputation the Tiwi Islands, which lie north of Darwin, are helping to protect—thanks to the expert work of the Tiwi Land Rangers, one of almost 70 Indigenous ranger groups across the north.

The Tiwi rangers are protecting their islands’ unique flora and fauna, forest plantation industry and fruit and vegetable gardens from foreign pests and diseases and are an important biosecurity buffer for mainland Australia.

“Our rangers are really passionate about what they do,” says Tiwi Land Ranger Supervisor and Mentor, Willie Rioli.

“Our real value is caring for and looking after country and continuing how our ancestors cared for our islands—it is for the benefit of future generations.”  

Currently three Tiwi rangers are undertaking land care surveillance and protection work across 7,800 square kilometres of country. They are active in fire management and weed control and, in collaboration with the Northern Australian Quarantine Strategy, are undertaking biosecurity surveillance to spot and manage exotic pests and diseases such as rabies, foot and mouth disease and the swine flu virus.

“In the Tiwis we are probably the closest to our northern neighbours, so we are playing our part by keeping dangerous pests and diseases out of our islands and the Australian mainland,” Willy says.

The Australian Government is supporting expanded biosecurity work by Indigenous rangers across the north. It has almost doubled the number of groups undertaking biosecurity surveillance and protection and is providing them with expert training and equipment.

The Tiwi Land Rangers piloted a new Citrus Pest Monitoring activity, which led them to detect the first Mango Leafhopper plant pest in the Northern Territory. They have created a system for the early detection of these insects which are a threat to the citrus industry nation-wide, as well as local citrus plantings.

“The extended support we are receiving is of great value, as living in a remote area, getting the equipment that we need to do our work can be very difficult,” Willy says.

“We are making a real difference, as like anything, if you don’t look after it things can be destroyed. We are proud of the way we are looking after the country and the way our Elders and the Tiwi Land Council support us in this work.”

The Australian Government’s White Paper on Developing Northern Australia and Agricultural Competitiveness White Paper are supporting the expansion of the Indigenous rangers program.

For more information visit the Department of Agriculture and Water Resources www.agriculture.gov.au/biosecurity website.

Published: 31 August 2017