The Indigenous Desert Alliance Conference will return to Yulara, Uluṟu-Kata Tjuṯa National Park and Katiti Petermann Indigenous Protected Area, in the Northern Territory, this month. More than 400 delegates from 50 desert ranger teams will make the journey to the Red Centre for the largest gathering of its kind in Australia.
Traditional Owners and Indigenous rangers from Australia’s desert region will discuss Indigenous land management priorities for one-third of the Australian land mass at the 8–10 November conference.
The Indigenous Desert Alliance was formed in 2014 to work towards securing the future health of the Australian desert and its people.
This year’s IDA conference will focus on collaborative, landscape-scale fire management in an effort to combat dangerous wildfires and protect cultural sites and the habitats of threatened species like the bilby, great desert skink and night parrot.
Indigenous Desert Alliance chair and Nyangumarta elder Nyaparu Rose says the conference is an opportunity to enhance the voice of the desert and develop strategies for dealing with global issues such as climate change and biodiversity loss.
“The world is looking to Traditional Owners and Indigenous rangers to lead the way forward on protecting country, so it’s important that we stay connected, support each other and continue to put the desert on the map,” Rose says.
“Desert mob have 65,000+ years of wisdom and leadership. Our eternal goals for looking after country are as strong as ever.”
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The conference marks the first time desert rangers have been able to meet since 2019 due to COVID-19 border restrictions. IDA deputy chief executive and Yilka woman Samantha Murray says rangers from across the desert have been looking forward to conference.
“It’s the best feeling coming together and seeing each other, being around elders and rangers from all sides of the desert,” Murray says. “It’s our cultural responsibility to look after country and this conference enables us to exchange knowledge and expertise.
“For young rangers, it’s an event where they can speak up and build confidence as a future leader. Rangers feel proud of their work and we want to share those stories with each other.”
Rose says the federal government’s recent State of the Environment Report and Threatened Species Action Plan were major turning points in recognising the role of Indigenous-led conservation in improving Australia’s biodiversity outcomes.
“Our strong connection to country over countless generations means we have the expertise to look after our desert home and the animals that live here,” she says.
“It’s a big job to look after threatened species and carefully burn country the right way, but our culture depends on it and rangers are working hard to stand up for country and culture.”
The conference will include the inaugural IDA Ranger of the Year awards.
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