Australia

Indigenous women Reef rangers win $1.8m Earthshot prize

An Indigenous women’s ranger program that combines thousands of years of cultural knowledge with digital technology to protect the Great Barrier Reef has won a million pounds ($A1.8m) from the Prince of Wales’ Earthshot fund.

The global prize rewards innovative evidence-based solutions in the fight against climate change and other large-scale environmental problems.

Queensland’s women’s Indigenous ranger program was one of five winners on Saturday, with each taking home a million pounds ($A1.8m) in the 2022 prize awarded by Prince William at a ceremony in the US city of Boston.

It’s a statewide women’s land and sea ranger network and support program that develops female rangers who combine 60,000 years of knowledge with modern conservation tools to better protect the 2300km-long Reef.

Yuku Baja Muliku woman Larissa Hale, chair of the Great Barrier Reef Foundation traditional owner advisory group, said the prize would help “grow and quadruple the number of Indigenous women rangers to 500, plus have 200 girls in an education program, inspiring the next generation of Indigenous rangers”.

“Our ambition is to reach out to a network of countries around the world to build a global collective helping to repair the planet,” she said.

The foundation’s managing director, Anna Marsden, said the region’s Indigenous rangers were an important defence in the battle to protect the World Heritage Site, which remains under threat from climate change and other environmental problems, such as poor water quality.

Custodians of land and sea

“As custodians of the land, the rangers protect sites of great cultural and spiritual significance, bringing together ancient knowledge passed down from generation to generation and modern tools such as drones to monitor coral changes, bushfires and land degradation,” she said.

“Their knowledge and the data they have collected already has given us critical insight into one of the most important ecosystems on the planet.”

Federal Environment Minister Tanya Plibersek hopes the prize will raise awareness about the program and grow the number of women rangers protecting the Reef.

Threatened by climate change and pollution, the Reef needs all the help it can get. Photo: AP

“Indigenous rangers play a vital role in the restoration and preservation of land and water including the Reef by helping to protect both biodiversity and cultural values,” she said.

“The programs also provide jobs in regional and remote communities, maintain connection to country and grow local economies.”

The program was the only Australian entry amongst the 15 finalists and took out the “Revive our oceans” category.

It’s one of five categories, known as “Earthshots”, in the two-year-old environmental prize, which was inspired by President John F Kennedy’s Moonshot in the 1960s.

That was a challenge to the American people to claim a leadership role in the space race and land a man on the moon before the end of that decade.

The others Earthshot categories are: Protect and restore nature, Clean our air, Build a waste-free world and Fix our climate.

-AAP



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