Innovative natural resource management

Ramingining, Northern Territory: The Arafura Swamp Rangers Aboriginal Corporation (ASRAC) hasn’t been operating for long but already it’s standing out for its exceptional work. It’s recently been nominated for the Northern Territory’s Natural Resource Management (NRM) ‘Best NRM Story’.

The Arafura Swamp in Arnhem Land lies almost adjacent to the Ramingining community. Vast and pristine, this remarkable freshwater wetland holds great cultural significance for the Yolngu people. Although there are other wooded swamps in Australia, this one is probably the largest and most diverse.  Many will recognise the terrain from the 2006 Rolf de Heer film, Ten canoes.

Map showing where Arafura swamp is in Katherine, Australia.

The local people hunt, fish and gather plants and wild eggs in the Arafura Swamp and so it’s vital that it—and the surrounding country—are looked after and protected. This is where the work of the corporation comes in.

As listed in its rule book, the corporation’s main objective is providing ‘high quality, professional and efficient land management and natural resource management services to the Arafura Swamp region’. There are feral animals, particularly buffaloes, to keep in check and weeds, bushfires and crocodiles to monitor and control.

The Arafura Swamp rangers have devised innovative and progressive methods. They know and understand their country but also choose to invest in new equipment, technologies, training and aerial operations. It’s all part of their search for better ways to capture reliable data and to make their natural resource management activities just a little bit easier.

For example, a durable compact high-definition geo-referencing camera is making a big difference both in capturing data and demonstrating to the Ramingining community good land-care practices.

As stated by the Northern Territory’s Natural Resource Management unit, ‘Through a short informative video the rangers have been able to show the Ramingining community the on-ground activities and cultural history of areas in a visually appealing way that future generations will be able to understand and access easily.’

Everyone agrees it’s necessary to develop the capacity of future Arafura Swamp rangers to take on a range of land management activities.

‘I’d like to see our rangers relying on their own cultural knowledge and practices as well as selectively utilising Western land management tools,’ said Mr Otto Campion, one of ASRAC’s directors. It’s about training, developing skills and getting people involved.’

No one argues that the sustainable and effective management of the Arafura Swamp and its surrounding areas depend on the community carrying out responsible land management activities. There’s no doubt the Arafura Swamp rangers are doing just that.

End note

Over the past year ASRAC has been working hard to strengthen its governance and to build its natural and cultural resource management capacity. With the support of its partners (Bush Heritage Australia), it has held a number of governance meetings and management planning workshops with clan groups of the Arafura Swamp region. It’s proposed that the Healthy Country Management Plan will be based on the traditional owners’ and custodians’ aspirations for the area—and that this plan will help inform future ASRAC’s operations and ranger work. It’s also expected to open the way for further funding and strategic support.

Photos courtesy of Arafura Swamp Rangers Aboriginal Corporation

Ranger standing with a hose over a tub washing baby crocodiles.

Cleaning the crocodile-raising pens, filled with newborn hatchlings

Two male rangers holding down a crocodile and measuring the crocodile with a measuring tape.

Crocodile capture, mark and release project in the Glyde River. The project is conducted by the rangers to study the growth rate of wild crocodiles in the Arafura Swamp region

Traditonal owners gathered around in a circle sitting on chairs or the ground having a meeting.

Compiling ASRAC’s land management plan—the Healthy Country Management Plan—with traditional owners of Malnyangarnak Outstation

two rangers about to get into a helicopter

The rangers prepare the helicopter for aerial spraying of the tropical wetland weed Mimosa