The first Indigenous rangers from the Mamu people in Northern Queensland are keeping a close eye on waterway health in the Innisfail region.
As climate change and urbanisation impacts on even the remote and pristine parts of Australia, the group of Indigenous rangers have been setting up cultural indicators and monitoring species in the waterways since July, 2022.
The ranger program, funded by the Queensland Government’s Indigenous Land and Sea Rangers Program, is a partnership with not-for-profit organisation Terrain NRM.
The program also includes protection of cultural heritage sites, monitoring biodiversity and helping pest plant control.
Senior Mamu ranger Francis Joyce says the establishment of rangers has meant the Mamu people are able to play a bigger role in the management of land and sea.
“We’ll also be monitoring impacts on the rainforest and ecosystems and looking at cultural indicators that came about through consultation with our Mamu people,” Joyce says.
“The information will give everyone a snapshot of waterway health and a better understanding to move towards solutions.
“By working together and building partnerships we can create a more sustainable future.”
The waterways project employs cultural indicators in the Mamu area of the Johnstone River, together with Western science, to combine cultural knowledge with modern methods.
The rangers complete monthly routine sampling across the Johnstone catchment to test for nutrients, pesticides and suspended solids.
Joyce says through the waterways project, rangers have been able to establish a pilot project working with CSIRO to conduct DNA sampling within the water, building a picture of the ecosystem of the river.
Indigenous Rangers in Cosmos: Uluru, Far North Qld and Great Sandy Desert, Fitzroy Crossing
“For us, our cultural indicators will show us if species of fish are still in that area,” she says.
“Maybe there’s a decline or something and they’re not there anymore…we probably have to try and look at doing some breeding.”
The Mamu rangers hope the development of the project will mean more involvement from the Mamu people.
“Hopefully we can grow it and start looking after wetlands, creek stablisations and weed management along the riverbanks,” Joyce says.
“We collate all our results and then present it to the Mamu people, and get their feedback and on what steps to go there next.”
Are you interested in how science and technology is transforming production, energy, and agriculture? Then our new email newsletter Greenlight Project, launching soon, is for you. Click here to become an inaugural subscriber.
The Greenlight Project is a year-long look at how regional Australia is preparing for and adapting to climate change.