Martu rangers visit Kenya - Part 2

Day Seven in Kenya

A bit more of a leisurely pace this morning, up for breakfast at 8am, most other days have been an early start.

From the Big Life Foundation Base were taken to a small traditional village, only about five minutes away. The village was made up of a series of small mud huts that were enclosed, by a fence made of thorny bushes. The livestock who are grazed all day away from the village are brought back inside the fenced area at night for protection. People and the livestock share the same space.

The people of the village welcomed us at the entrance of the village with traditional dancing and song.  Everyone was dressed in splendidly colourful clothes and beaded jewelry. They danced and sang for quite some time and then selected people from our group to join in their dance. This was quite amusing because Tristan Cole was selected and he can’t dance! There was a bit a laughing from our team and appreciation from the villages.  As more and more people were selected, there was a general movement away by the rangers! In the end, we all joined together to dance and to enter the village.

Day 7 Dancing.jpg

After the dancing and singing, we talked with the villagers sharing knowledge and stories between two traditional people groups, who are separated by thousands of kilometers, yet still, find some aspects of commonality. 

We were able to buy beaded gifts in the village.  The money from the sales goes straight to the people. Many of us brought beautiful gifts and we made them happy with all our purchases. The difficulty with buying things in Kenya is that bartering is required. This was extremely difficult for all of us.  Afterwards, we left the village and went back to Big Life Base.

We had time back at the base for the Rangers to present to each other and to the Masai elders. The Masai elders cannot quite believe that rangers in Australia actually hunt wildlife to eat as Masai only eat the animals they herd (goats, sheep, cows).

The evening saw us heading out to the savanna near the foot of the Chyulu Hills. Dan Sultan played and the Masai sang and danced as the sun went down.  The sounds of livestock bells floated up the valley and zebra, wildebeest, goats and cows grazed in the distance.

Day 7 Dan concert.jpg

The Indigenous rangers took this opportunity to thank the Big Life Foundation for hosting us, allowing us to interact with their rangers and visit their country.

The final dinner was three sheep cooked traditional Masai BBQ style. Martu rangers enjoyed the prized portion of one sheep, as it needs to be offered to the elders.  Since we had Muuki in our group we all four of us got to enjoy it.


Day Eight in Kenya

We said goodbye to our new friends at the Big Life Base, as we headed for Nairobi.  We will all take very fond memories with us that will last forever.

Leaving the peace of the country we battled the traffic of Nairobi, it is insane! Today we witnessed a hiace van purposely run off the road by two other cars - he obviously did something wrong. Muuki was the closest to it as he was in the front of our car and he remarked: "the drivers here are crazy!".

We made it to the Wildebeest Lodge safely and everyone was relieved to be back to a familiar place. We all enjoyed a delicious beef burger - we had been craving beef after eating mostly vegetables with some goat/sheep at times.

Day 8 Elephant 1.jpg

In the afternoon we headed off to the elephant orphanage where 32 baby elephants, one giraffe and one blind rhino are cared for by a team of dedicated keepers. The keepers stay with the elephants 24 hours a day, feeding them milk every three hours.

We were lucky to have a private viewing of the elephant feeding, it was incredible. The elephants came walking out of the bush, in five groups. At first walking, then running to get to the milk. It was a little intimidating to see elephants running towards you, even if they are babies, they are still big.

Muuki elephant.jpg

After feeding we were able to interact with the elephants, which was unbelievable.  We even managed to convince Muuki that it was OK to pat one, which he then did. He had the biggest smile ever, along with us all.

The elephants are eventually reintroduced to a reserve, however, most never make it back to the true wild as they have had interaction with humans for up to six years.

Contacting people at home today was great as we have been missing everyone so much, even though we are having such an amazing time here.


Day Nine in Kenya

We packed up our tents for the last time this morning.  It was a little sad to say goodbye to the tents! They are going to a new home, with the rangers at Big Life to utilise on patrols. Most of us have moved into safari tents, with eight beds, however Muuki has moved into a deluxe room with his own bathroom, he is being treated well here.

Off to Nairobi National Park this morning, we entered the park and stopped at the ranger memorial to pay our respects to the rangers who have lost their lives while working.  Around the world, a ranger dies every three days protecting the environment.


Day 9 Ranger memorial.jpg

Nairobi National Park is adjacent to the city - the only place in the world that this is the case. You drive down the main highway and on one side you have the city right up to the highway and on the other you have national park with various wild animals including lions, rhinos, zebras, impalas, buffaloes, warthogs and leopards. The Kenyan Wildlife Service (KWS) rangers there were telling us a story about when a lion walked into the city.  We thought they were joking but they were serious. They were able to usher it back into the park, which is amazing.

We drove around the park with  KWS rangers and saw so many animals, including white rhino’s and a baby about 50m from the car and a couple of lions. We stopped a place where the Kenyan government has burnt ivory to try and stop poaching. They have destroyed hundreds of millions of dollars’ worth.

We spent time with the KWS rangers one on one and they cannot believe how different our work is.  They protect their animals from poachers and we hunt our wildlife for food. They have so many questions it is difficult to have time to answer them all but we are giving it a good go.

Day 9 KWS rangers.jpg


Day Ten in Kenya

Up at 5am this morning to join the KWS rangers on a foot patrol in Nairobi National Park. You may be thinking we are crazy, a foot patrol in a national park with lions, rhinos and buffaloes!  Well we have experienced so many things since we have been here we are feeling that this is just a normal day. The Rangers here are extremely competent and true professionals. They know their jobs and their animals.

We met the KWS teams and headed off in three groups to patrol on foot, collectively we observe eight black rhinos (two with babies), two white rhinos with a baby, many buffaloes, zebras, impalas and warthogs.

Being within 150m of a black rhino is an exhilarating experience, when on foot. Lucky we were down wind as rhino’s have extremely bad vision and rely on smell to alert them to danger.

After our patrol finished tea was served and we enjoyed a cup of tea with the KWS rangers.  We talked about the ranger work and tried to help the KWS rangers to get a handle on what we do in our country.

Day 10 - KWS cup of tea.JPG

It is our last full day here in Kenya, so we spent the afternoon doing some shopping for gifts, and again having to barter, which is so difficult, but we are getting better at it!

We are looking forward to travelling home soon but will miss all of our new friends.  It has been an absolutely incredible experience and we would like to thank Sean Wilmore from the Thin Green Line Foundation for organising this opportunity and inviting us along.  Thank you also to Dan Sultan.

Please check out the amazing work of the Thin Green Line Foundation


The Indigenous Ranger Exchange is a world-first conservation and cultural exchange program that takes a select group of Indigenous Australian Rangers on a once-in-a-lifetime journey to Kenya, Africa, to connect with Maasai Community Rangers in their tribal homelands.

Through the assistance of The Thin Green Line Foundation, this exchange provides an opportunity for Indigenous Rangers to travel to Kenya and share knowledge, culture and in-the-field experiences with their Maasai colleagues. The overall objective of the journey is to develop and exchange conservation solutions for Australian park Rangers to effectively protect endangered species and their surrounding ecosystems.

Joining the group will be celebrated Indigenous Australian performer, Dan Sultan, who will help facilitate the musical components of the journey and will perform for the group throughout the experience.

The exchange will be based from Nairobi, led by TTGLF founder, Sean Willmore, with support from local NGO partner, Big Life Foundation. Founded in 2010, Big Life was the first organisation in East Africa to establish coordinated cross-border anti-poaching operations. Big Life works in approved community conservation zones that engage local communities and employs over 300 community rangers.

Participating organisations: The Thin Green Line Foundation, Big Life Foundation, Kimberley Land Council (KLC), Martu – Kanyirninpa Jukurrpa (KJ) and Jawoyn rangers




Martu rangers visit Kenya - Part 1

 Day 1: Arriving in Kenya

After 33 hours, three planes, two buses and a train we arrived in Nairobi, we had just entered another world! We were welcomed by the immigration and then customs staff into to Kenya. Everyone one we met in the airport was so friendly and started to ease some of our trepidation and nerves.


We then battled the Nairobi traffic, where there only seems to be one rule, give way to livestock! Our first night was spent in the Wildebeest Eco Resort, where we camped in our new tents, which will be our home for the next ten days as we travel Kenya.


Day 2: Big Life base


We headed out to Big Life foundations base, which is about 250km and 4.5 hours south-east of Nairobi near Chyulu Hills National Park. Big Life Rangers are hosting us for some of our time here. They employ 300 rangers, on Masai community held land. Their primary job is to protect wildlife from poachers and farmer (community members) who don’t appreciate their crops being eaten, by say an elephant for example.

We were welcomed to the Big Life base, set up our tents and had dinner of a traditionally cooked goat, with one of the prized parts being the barbecued liver, eaten by us all.


Day 3: Zebras, goats and impalas

Today we were up at dawn to go for a drive around the country locally. We saw zebras, goats, cows, sheep and impalas. We stopped at a traditional corral, where the Maisi stack prickly branches around in a circle and herd their stock into them at night, the family also sleep inside the corral with the stock to watch over them at night. I say prickly branches, I should just say branches as every plant here seems to be prickly.


In the afternoon we were taken out to a private conservation park to have a look at more country. Here we saw four elephants one know as Tim, who is 57 years old and has the largest tusk in Kenya. He is monitored/guarded constantly by Big Life rangers as he keeps eating peoples crops and is at risk of being killed.

While out we also saw zebras, hogwarts, ostrich, impala, wildebeest,  vultures, a bustard (everyone wanted to shoot it, the problem is Masai don’t eat wild game), baboons, monkeys, and buffalo. Muuki says this country is good it has so many animals. He also says this country has too many people.


Day 4: On patrol


Out to the Rhino ranger outstation, in the lava flows. Rocky hilly county full of rocks and prickly bushes. As the name suggests this station is about protecting rhinos. The rangers here track the rhino’s, by following their footprints and by capturing them on camera traps set around the place. There work is important as they need to know the movement of the rhino’s so they can protect them.


There are ten rangers at the base and they patrol by foot, up to 20km a day,  every day of the year. We went out on a short patrol with them in the afternoon in the hot sun for a few hours walking about 8km. We didn’t see a rhino but found tracks, but were fortunate to see giraffes up close.

For dinner, we enquired what we would be having to the head ranger, and it was all vegetable based (soya beans, spinach/kale, and cornstarch cake (a bit like damper called masala).

He also said we cannot afford meat, we would have really liked to show you how we traditionally eat goat/sheep. We asked how much is a goat, and it was 6000 shillings (about $75 AUS). So we all chucked in and got a big sheep. We were then shown how it was traditionally killed, butchered and eaten. It was a great experience that brought the rangers from two worlds together.


Day 5: Encounter with a poacher, lion tracking and a bit of footy

This morning was a little confronting as a suspected poacher had been brought into our base, as we had the head ranger with us, on his way out of the country to be handed to the police. Poaching here carries long prison time of 20 years. The suspected poacher was what Big Life rangers were calling a scout. His job is to check out where the rangers are. Fortunately for the suspected poacher, his story of why he was there checked out and he was released.


After this, we were all a bit nervous,  but the Big Life rangers are a professional unit and quickly made us feel at ease again. We went out trying to track a lion pride with the ranger who is employed to monitor it. He used radio tracking, exactly the same as our rangers use to track rock wallabies, Landy even had a go. Unfortunately, no lions to be found.

We returned to the outstation to say our good-byes and play a bit of footy, which was hilarious, as the Big Life rangers tried to come to terms with the odd shaped ball.

Around lunch time we moved on to another outstation about thew hours further south, near Amboseli National Park, arriving at dusk.



Day Six: Meeting of elders

Amboseli rangers took us off on a foot patrol early this morning which was an amazing experience, we walked 14.5km through an ever-changing landscape from dusty dried out plains, to permanent water holes to lush green plains. We strolled through zebra herds, impalas, Maisi herding cows and goats and thousands of wildebeests. Muuki and another ranger from Jarwin didn’t join us on foot for this walk but enjoyed the country as they were driven around it meeting up with us at four different locations. At one of those locations, while they were waiting for the walkers he actually saw a Hippo!

In the afternoon we returned to the Big Life Base, where four Masai elders came to meet Muuki. They talked at length about their countries, their people, their economy, their food and decided there was a lot of things they had in common. Muuki presented them each with a nulla nulla, and they presented him with a beautifully beaded walking stick. Landy sat and supported Muuki throughout the conversation that went for about 1 ½ hours.


We are all tired yet well and talking on so many new things, we are all missing you back at home and I will try and write to you all again soon, so it is not so long.

See you soon,

Muuki, Landy, Gabbi and Tristan       



The Indigenous Ranger Exchange is a world-first conservation and cultural exchange program that takes a select group of Indigenous Australian Rangers on a once-in-a-lifetime journey to Kenya, Africa, to connect with Maasai Community Rangers in their tribal homelands.

Through the assistance of The Thin Green Line Foundation, this exchange provides an opportunity for Indigenous Rangers to travel to Kenya and share knowledge, culture and in-the-field experiences with their Maasai colleagues. The overall objective of the journey is to develop and exchange conservation solutions for Australian park Rangers to effectively protect endangered species and their surrounding ecosystems.

Joining the group will be celebrated Indigenous Australian performer, Dan Sultan, who will help facilitate the musical components of the journey and will perform for the group throughout the experience.

The exchange will be based from Nairobi, led by TTGLF founder, Sean Willmore, with support from local NGO partner, Big Life Foundation. Founded in 2010, Big Life was the first organisation in East Africa to establish coordinated cross-border anti-poaching operations. Big Life works in approved community conservation zones that engage local communities and employs over 300 community rangers.

Participating organisations: The Thin Green Line Foundation, Big Life Foundation, Kimberley Land Council (KLC), Martu – Kanyirninpa Jukurrpa (KJ) and Jawoyn rangers


Vol 34 August newsletter now out

The past three months have been very bust for Martu and KJ. Read in the latest edition about an on country camp with over 100 people including Martu, the local police, ALS lawyers, the Magistrate gathering together on country to talk about the criminal justice system. The work the rangers have been undertaking with researchers from the University of Melbourne, The Nature Conservancy and NESP TSR Hub, to co-design a monitoring program to track trends in mankarr (bilby) populations. And the women's camp where 80 women from the Ngaanyatjarra, Pitjantjatjara Yankunytjatjara Women's Council, the Njamal People's Trust, the Wirlu-Yindjibarndi Aboriginal Corporation and the Murujuga Land and Sea Unit came together to have important discussions about what women used to do in the past and what they would like to do in the future. And so much more ...

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80 women gather to share knowledge and stories

Womens camp

KJ held its second wantikaja (women's) camp at Yulpu claypan.  Martu elders invited women from the Ngaanyatjarra, Pitjantjatjara Yankunytjatjara Women’s Council, the Njamal People’s Trust, the Wirlu-murra Yindjibarndi Aboriginal Corporation and the Murujuga Land and Sea Unit.  Over eighty women from Martu communities and townships, Warakurna, Hedland, Roebourne and Dampier arrived on Monday, some flying from Alice Springs, others driving for two days from Dampier!

During the trip, the women had important discussions about what women used to do in the past and what they would like to do in the future.  A number of important sites were visited in the vicinity of Yulpu, where the elders told stories about these places and also life during pujiman (bushman) days.  There was a lot of learning by the younger women from the elders and the camp went exceptionally well.  

Thank you to Puntukurnu Aboriginal Medical Service for all your pre-trip help and for providing a nurse to accompany us on the trip, East Pilbara Independence Support in Newman for providing specialised equipment, MAC for providing vehicles and four MAC wanti (women) rangers, and the Njamal, Yindjibarndi and NYC for their involvement and support.   Thank you to the Department of Culture and the Arts,  the Martu Future Fund and the Newman Women's Shelter for your financial support.

Thank you also to Anne Saw who donated over 50 beanies, some of which were hand knitted, for Martu.  The beanies were handed out on the camp and were a real hit.

Anne sent in a short story of her time working with the Martu.  It is a wonderful read:

I first went to Jigalong community in 1977 when I was working for the WA government Dental program. 
One dentist, Dr David Friend, and me as dental nurse, had the extraordinary job of visiting country towns and isolated communities to provide dental work in remote areas. We travelled in a kitted out land cruiser from Perth to Kununurra and would set up in hospitals or community health centres, firstly along the coastal and then the inland route.  
David Friend was a New Zealander; capable, down to earth, well travelled and he had to wear more than his dental hat at many times, he would have made a good doctor and he was an excellent dentist. I was really just a kid on a bit of a working adventure. I quietly and happily celebrated my 21st birthday that July at Halls Creek.
I was actually in my element, I loved driving those long distances, seeing how the vegetation, landscape and colours of the earth changed as we ventured further north. Meeting different people from all walks of life, seemingly appearing out of nowhere in these remote places for treatment and to tell their personal stories really made me wonder at life and people's ability to endure harsh conditions with tenacity and humour. 
At the outback communities we were welcomed by the local First Nations People.  Amongst the many places we visited, Yandeyarra and Jigalong stood out and meant the most to both David and I. 
We stayed at Jigalong for a few weeks treating the community. 
Not long after we arrived at Jigalong we were asked to assist with the arrival of the flying doctor as someone had been injured, which involved lining the edge of the runway with tin cans containing candles, which we lit to guide the plane that was coming in after dark. Exciting stuff!
I liked the place, the colour of the earth, I especially enjoyed the little children and struck up a friendship with a couple of young girls who were about 19. (I had kept a journal which I lost when I was travelling in New Zealand the following year, so I have unfortunately forgotten many names, events and places, but I never forgot their sweet faces.) 
Everyone came and watched an outdoor movie one night, I sat with little kids in my lap. 
We were taken out on country to the east, a long way to a magnificent water hole with huge red rocks jutting out to the pure blue sky. 
While I was at Jigalong I decided that I would leave the dental van at the end of that trip. I hadn't told anyone of my plans to finish up. The elders called a meeting to which I was invited and amazingly, they asked me to come back and mind the store while the usual storekeeper went on a months break! 
How did the elders know I could or would do that?  It was their magic, wisdom and connection, I supposed. 
So of course I agreed to return to Jigalong to work in the store. I wasn't great at the job to be honest! I did ok but I'm not much of a shopkeeper type, and the best thing really was just being there, seeing and chatting with the community members coming and going each day. 
This was a very special time in my life. I felt incredibly honoured to have the opportunity to experience an outback world for a brief period of time. 
To breathe in the expanse of earth and sky and to meet so many beautiful people was a gift I have always remembered and treasured.

The other week I was cold in the night and I thought about those who do not have the urban comforts that I have and I thought I must do something to help someone. I thought about the Jigalong community having those cold nights and mornings and I thought providing beanies was personally doable and would hopefully bring a little warmth this season. 
Shame I haven't thought of doing this long before - but with age comes wisdom! 

I'm sure the women's camp will be a good get together; kindly send the women my love, respect and gratitude.
Yours sincerely,
Anne Saw (Unsworth)

Martu on country to talk about the Criminal Justice System

DW_group_stitch by Dave Wells.jpg

The Martu Leadership Program (MLP) participants have just returned from a four day camp on country attended by key law agencies, departments and organisations.  Over 100 people were present for this important meeting that was held deep on Martu country not far from the Parnngurr community, located in the Western Desert.

The motivations for this meeting were simple.  Martu want to reduce the number of Martu going to lock-up.  They feel it is time to form a different sort of relationship with key whitefellas working in the criminal justice system.  They feel that Martu working closely with police, lawyers, prison and the Pilbara magistrate is the way for everyone to change the story.

To help everyone on this journey the MLP organised this meeting on country to start the conversation.   They invited Pilbara Magistrate Michelle Ridley, OIC Newman Police - Mark Fleskens, Senior Sergeant Jigalong - Bob Scott, Executive Manager for Indigenous and Community Diversity - Robert Skesteris,  Aboriginal Legal Service Lawyers, Alice Barter and Melita Medcalf and Roebourne Regional Prison Senior staff- Catherine Bailey and Christina O’Brien.

KJ CEO Kate Mackie says “The PDC are connected to this story through their support of the MLP.  It’s an exciting new story emerging that seeks to follow Martu aspirations for strengthening Martu families and their communities.”

This was an unprecedented and unique opportunity for Martu to talk with such a collection of people.  The visitors knew that it was their chance to listen and Martu were keen to share their ideas.   Everyone was keen to explore new methods within the criminal justice system that would give better outcomes for Martu and the broader community.   The key programs and extension areas that were discussed included:

  • Diversion program;

  • Licensing program;

  • Teaching whitefellas about Martu and bringing them closer;

  • Teaching Martu in prison;

  • Stronger transition for Martu post prison;

  • Reducing recidivism; and

  • Learning about court.

Billy Landy, mentor for the Martu Leadership Program felt that this was a big moment in time for Martu “We haven’t been able to talk like this before.  I feel really proud for my people that we are taking this on.  The whitefellas are listening to our story and we see that as a big respect

Linking to KJ’s successful ranger and Leadership programs to take Martu out for the Criminal Justice System.  Everyone wants the same thing.  To keep the young people out of trouble. 

Snr Sergeant Mark Fleskens observed  “We may be at an early part of a big journey, but what a great start to exploring new ways of doing things.  The possibilities are considerable and now the real work begins

The MLP will now work closely with local police, ALS lawyers, the magistrate and Prison staff on a raft of initiatives.   The key is seen as everyone working together – Kujungka


Check out the film here

Expression of Interest (EOI) for Ranger Coordinator roles

Kanyirninpa Jukurrpa (KJ) operates an Indigenous ranger program based out of the Martu communities in the Western Desert. The program delivers a range of environmental activities using a mixture of traditional knowledge and contemporary science. The ranger program forms a key part of KJ’s growing social, cultural and land management activities across the Martu native title determination comprising of 13.6 million hectares of desert country.  

There may be new opportunities for Ranger Coordinators at KJ in 2017/18. As positions become available, you may be contacted and invited to submit an application addressing the selection criteria. 

For an Expression of Interest application pack and enquiries please contact

EOI submissions will close 7th August, 2017

EOI Ranger Coordinator information

EOI Application pack

Martu rangers feature on Al Jazeera's Earthrise

"I take them out and teach them so they can continue the practices of their ancestors," says elder Waka Taylor to the younger rangers. "This is how our old people lit their country in bushman days, creating burnt areas so bushfood can regrow and for hunting." 

"We leave the knowledge with you," he says to ranger Jarrod Kadibil. 

Rachael Hocking travels to the Western Desert to spend time with a group of Martu rangers on a fire programme set to stop the wildfires before they take hold.

Watch the episode here


Martu Leadership participants present to Newman Police


The KJ Martu Leadership Program (MLP) participants met up with OIC Newman Police Mark Fleskens and his team at the Newman Police Headquarters.

Here the MLP participants gave a presentation about the KJ rangers and Martu Leadership Program.  This was a really good first meeting for the two groups to come together and paves the way for further discussion.  

Both the Martu team and the Newman Police are committed to developing a partnership that has the potential to open up a different dialogue between Martu and Police.  There are already plans for Mark and some of his colleagues to join the KJ rangers on country next month, along with the Pilbara magistrate Michelle Ridley.  

Aerial incendiary burning, on ground burning, waterhole mapping and Mossman River Grass mapping - a busy week for the Punmu rangers

The Punmu rangers have been busy out and about looking after Martu country.

The week started off with two reconnaissance flights, one for the women and one for the men, to assess fuel loads for fire management work. Based on fire scar maps, the aerial assessment, prior experience of rangers and advice from KJ waru (fire) officer, a number of areas were identified for fire management.

The rangers conducted aerial incendiary flights targeting old growth and medium aged spinifex areas with the aim of increasing diversity in habitat. Rangers also undertook ground burning to protect mulyamiji (great desert skink) sites.

In addition to the fire work the rangers mapped a Mossman River Grass infestation along the Punmu Access Road towards Telfer and assisted and participated in waterhole mapping work.

Using the wall map at the Lake House (Punmu ranger station) and the knowledge of elders such as Kumpaya Girgirba and Thelma Judson important sites in the Punmu/Kunawarritji area were located. Everyone talked about how the sites could be accessed from the ground, and the idea of a joint trip with the Kunawarritji rangers was suggested.

The week ended with a community BBQ at the Lake House and was attended by a large number of people including rangers, community members, and school staff.

"I was so proud of myself at this meeting last week. This leadership program, it’s really strong"


The Martu Leadership Program (MLP) is a focused community education and development program, designed to build broad-based capacity and create opportunities in remote Western Desert Aboriginal communities. It seeks to fill a gap that was seen as precluding Martu people from developing a viable economy, from engaging effectively with government and many programs, from adequately addressing entrenched social issues and from being able to take control of their future.

The MLP has demonstrated in its first three years as a pilot program that it can meet the needs of both Martu and the mainstream – government and other stakeholders with an interest in supporting economic development and empowerment in Martu communities. It is a model for building strong governance and developing broad capacity that Martu have embraced and co-designed, that they understand, that makes sense within their own perspective, culture and history, and that can also deliver on outcomes framed by Western society (in this report, characterised in Martu terms as ‘whitefellas’).

Read the evaluation of the MLP pilot program using the Social Return on Investment (SROI) methodology

Rangers undertake aerial incendiary training

Thanks to Department of Parks and Wildlife, Western Australia for helping nine KJ staff and rangers through aerial incendiary training in Newman recently.

Training was conducted in operating safely around aircraft and in the use of the R3 aerial incendiary machine. The use of the both fixed wing aircraft and helicopters for aerial incendiary work was covered in the training which resulted in trainees gaining competency for the role of bombardier.

The training was successful with Martu rangers engaged with the subject matter and some good discussions around prescribed burning practices taking place. The practical component of the course was a highlight as was everyone getting a flight in the Airvan!

A special thanks to Brad and Jamie for travelling up from the south west to show us the ropes.

KJ Healthy country Coordinator Gareth Catt demonstrating the incendiary machine for Alwyn Booth, and Abel Yallabah.

KJ Healthy country Coordinator Gareth Catt demonstrating the incendiary machine for Alwyn Booth, and Abel Yallabah.

is KJ rangers and staff with Allisdair Macdonald, Pilbara Regional Manager and Brad Bourke, Senior Fire Aviation Services Officer during the training.

is KJ rangers and staff with Allisdair Macdonald, Pilbara Regional Manager and Brad Bourke, Senior Fire Aviation Services Officer during the training.

Desert lakes fill with life

Footage: Alicia Whittington, Parks and Wildlife WA

Record summer rainfall across the western desert from the Eastern Pilbara across the border to the Northern Territory has changed the landscape dramatically. The usually dry salt pans in the eastern desert areas have been inundated to their highest level in 30 years and a rare natural phenomenon is taking place.

In response to summer rains, waterbirds that normally reside on the coast have headed inland to islands in these lakes to breed in their thousands, and have been documented by three member organisations of the Indigenous Desert Alliance (Kanyirninpa Jukurrpa, Central Desert Native Title Services, Central Land Council) and the Western Australian Department of Parks and Wildlife.

‘When we looked at the rainfall records and some satellite imagery, we knew this was a rare event’ said Gareth Catt, KJ Healthy Country Coordinator and spokesman for the Indigenous Desert Alliance.  ‘These desert landscapes are some of the largest intact natural areas left on the planet and so little is known about them. We wanted to gather as much information as possible to understand what is occurring in these remote lakes.’

Alicia Whittington, a Conservation Officer with the Department of Parks and Wildlife, explains “it was a unique opportunity to gather as much information as possible to understand the importance of these remote lakes.  Waterbirds that normally reside on the coast are known to head inland to breed on desert island lakes formed during above average summer rains.  This year has been exceptional and a rare chance to record the bird breeding in the desert”.

Parks and Wildlife arranged a small plane to conduct an aerial survey of vast wetlands, flooded rivers and lakes in conjunction with the Indigenous Desert Alliance.  Gareth Catt said “the water was so vast that we felt like we were flying over the ocean. We have long thought that these lakes are significant breeding grounds for several birds, but they exceeded our expectations”,

A large variety of water birds were recorded in this normally arid landscape. The most exciting discovery being large colonies of banded stilts on small islands in the middle of some lakes. On one lake, the estimate was close to 90,000 banded stilts; most breeding in the good conditions.

These birds are found nowhere else but in Australia, looking after them and the iconic lakes that make up their breeding grounds is vital in maintaining the integrity of a desert system we are only beginning to understand.

Walking the Cape to Cape, visiting Roebourne prison and gearing up for a busy field season

2017 is off to a busy start with lots of activities being undertaken on country.  The Martu Leadership Program participants have hiked on south-west coast as part of their annual bonding activity, the ranger teams are gearing up for a busy field season and KJ's new language program is set to start.

Read more in our first newsletter for 2017.

Download Vol 32 KJ Newsletter (6.9MB)

Click here to read the newsletter online

Northern Australia beset by floods but Indigenous groups warn of fire risk

The Guardian Wednesday 25 January 2017

Amid rising floodwaters across the Northern Territory and northern Western Australia, Indigenous environmental groups have issued a fire warning.

Heavy rain across the region has sparked flash floods, cutting off communities and knocking out communication lines, and even pushing tropical weather into the normally arid desert region.

A low-pressure system is expected to bring more heavy rain over the next week. Widespread falls of more than 100mm have been recorded across the Top End, including 275mm at Labelle, west of Litchfield national park. Darwin saw its wettest day in five years on Monday, with 145.6mm in 24 hours, and a number of roads around Katherine are under water.

While the immediate responses concentrate on assisting those affected including food drops to some remote communities, the Indigenous Desert Alliance has also urged the immediate start of fire mitigation planning.

The heavy rains have already led to rampant vegetation growth, which will become fire fuel in the dry season.

“We’re jumping the gun a little bit I suppose but it’s one of those conversations that has to happen every time one of these rain events go on, because everyone gets to it a little too late,” said Gareth Catt, spokesman for the alliance of land management groups across the central desert.

“If the weather continues it will be too wet to burn but previous experience is that after these big rain events you get big fire events.”

The last major fire events were in 2011 and 2012 across parts of the central deserts and Catt said he saw “the worst of both”.

“A fire burned something in the vicinity of 3m hectares in one hit,” he said. “If you drove from Perth to Margaret River you’d still be in the fire scar.”

When the large fires burn they destroy vegetation, habitat and wildlife, and the group wants to make plans now to get on to the affected country as soon as it’s dry enough to begin the low-intensity mosaic burning commonly carried out by Indigenous rangers.

However, not all Indigenous-owned land areas have ranger groups and the alliance is also continuing calls for more funding to expand the successful program that trains and employs Indigenous people to care for their country.

Some areas have the capacity to implement fire management but others cover millions of hectares with just a handful of rangers.

Burning on country requires the cooperation and knowledge of traditional owner groups, who have an understanding of the environment, both geographically and culturally.

“But the specific issue we’re talking about is fire and we need to look at the this now because experience has told us if we don’t start thinking about this early, as we get down the track we start to see big fires emerge and a huge response effort is put in,” Catt said.

“If we can get in early and burn country … we can reduce the need to respond so intensively, which is exhausting when it does happen, and produce a much better result for the country.”

Patrick O’Leary, spokesman for Pew Charitable Trusts, said the flooding event and potential fire event came in the context of uncertainty around ranger groups and the Indigenous protected areas many work on.

IPAs cover about 65m hectares of land, including about 43% of the national reserve system.

“The future of IPAs in the longterm is really critical in terms of this kind of land management,” O’Leary told Guardian Australia.

“It creates that strategic framework around which you prioritise things like fire management that you have to roll out throughout the year so you get good bang for your buck in terms of environmental outcomes, and Indigenous outcomes.”

The current federal funding cycle for IPAs ends next financial year and O’Leary said it was a “big question” for the environment and Indigenous affairs portfolio in the next federal budget.

The Guardian Wednesday 25 January 2017

Celebrating Partnerships

KJ has strong partnering relationships with a number of organisations.  These long term partnerships are based on a shared vision, respect, mutual trust and a desire to assist Martu in looking after country and culture. The knowledge and skills contributed by each partner have served to foster outcomes that would be difficult to achieve for either partner alone.

This short film celebrates how strong partnerships have resulted in significant social, cultural, economic and environmental benefits for Martu and their country.  



December newsletter is now out

Luke Frank and Muuki Taylor receiving the highly commended award at the 2016 Indigenous Governance Awards from Mick Dodson.

Luke Frank and Muuki Taylor receiving the highly commended award at the 2016 Indigenous Governance Awards from Mick Dodson.

2016 is drawing to a close and the weather is heating with most days at the 40 degree mark.

This final newsletter edition for this year includes our success in the 2016 Indigenous Governance Awards, our trip to Canberra meeting a number of ministers and their advisors, the amazing work the rangers have been doing out on country and the leadership participants participating in a mock court. Plus so much more!

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