Boosted by Australian Philanthropy Award

How Australian Philanthropy Award for innovative Indigenous program on Country boosts vital work

Almost twelve months after the Warddeken Daluk (Women’s) Ranger Program in West Arnhem Land was recognised at the Australian Philanthropy’s Awards, one of the program’s funding partners has hailed the award’s role in growing its supporter base.

The Klein Family Foundation and the Karrkad Kanjdji Trust, who received the 2019 Indigenous Philanthropy Award for the program, came together in 2016 enable Warddeken rangers to vastly increase women’s representation in their workforce.

“The Karrkad Kanjdji Trust supports Indigenous ranger groups to care for their country, we connect philanthropic funding to remote Indigenous-led projects. This award has helped us grow our supporter base, which means more critical conservation and cultural heritage management can be undertaken on the ground,’’ said Karrkad Kanjdji Trust CEO Stacey Irving.

However, like so many other funded initiatives, plans to expand the Daluk Women’s Ranger Program have been hit by the COVID-19 restrictions. The virus’s threat to vulnerable communities in the area is all too real and the Warddeken Indigenous Protected Area and the rest of Arnhem Land have been cut off from the rest of the Northern Territory.

With nominations now open for this year’s Australian Philanthropy Awards, here’s some background on the Daluk Ranger Program, what’s happened since it was officially recognised and the elements behind its award-winning philanthropic partnership.

The Warddeken Daluk (Women’s) Ranger Program

In 2016 the Klein Family Foundation and the Jibb Foundation, generous supporters of the Karrkad Kanjdji Trust, co-funded the establishment of the Warddeken Daluk Ranger Program at the Kabulwarnamyo Outstation. Three years on in 2019 both funders (and others) committed to supporting the growth of the project across the 1.4million hectare Indigenous Protected Area.

Indigenous rangers are caring for Australia’s most exceptional natural environments. They are blending traditional knowledge and western science to protect vulnerable habitat for native plants and animals and preserving some of the oldest cultural sites in the world. Working and living on Country means rangers and their families have the opportunity to remain connected to their ancestral lands and cultural heritage.

Ranger programs across Australia have historically been led by male rangers tackling feral species invasion and wildfires. Women have been significantly underrepresented. In West Arnhem Land, the Karrkad Kanjdji Trust has partnered with the Warddeken Land Management  (who manages their 1.4million hectare Indigenous Protected Area) to strengthen the role of women in caring for their Country. Participating in Indigenous ranger programs gives women unique chances to be empowered through employment, especially given the limited scope of job opportunities available in the remote communities of Arnhem Land. Their work has transformative benefits, not only for themselves and their communities, but for the preservation of Country and culture. Much of the Indigenous knowledge relating to land and cultural-heritage management is gender-specific, so having women engaged means the near-encyclopaedic knowledge of key female Elders can be recorded and passed on.

The successes of Women’s Ranger Programs are highly dependent on having roles specifically dedicated to coordinating the program. A coordinator builds the sustainability of the program and creates a welcoming and culturally appropriate work environment. This fosters a context where the knowledge of female Elders can be shared and valued within the broader ranger program. Unfortunately, government funding for coordinator roles is limited.

Along with its philanthropic partners, KKT ensures that organisations like Warddeken have the resources to fund dedicated Women’s Ranger Project coordinators, as well as operational and infrastructure costs, so that the women rangers remain an integral part of ranger workforces.

Despite the unique knowledge and skills that women rangers bring, traditional funding for ranger programs has not kept pace with the growth and needs of Women’s Ranger Programs. This funding gap has created an opportunity for philanthropy to have a real impact on the lives of the Indigenous women of Arnhem Land and their communities.

Project progress under COVID-19 Restrictions

Due to high rates of chronic disease and other compounding risk factors, Indigenous communities are vulnerable to the devastating impacts of COVID-19. Remote communities, Indigenous Land Management Organisations (including Warddeken), the Northern Land Council, and the Northern Territory Government moved swiftly to limit the likelihood of transmission. Early and strict travel restrictions have, to date, kept COVID-19 out of remote communities and allowed ranger programs to continue their work, albeit in a more isolated manner.

The existing Warddeken Daluk Ranger Program based at Kabulwarnamyo Outstation has maintained its momentum, with Daluk rangers working throughout the year on ecological monitoring, rock art documentation, early-season cool burning and providing opportunities for traditional knowledge to be passed down to the next generation.

Scaling the project to span a larger area, by establishing a Daluk Program at Mamardawerre Outstation (a long, bumpy and sometimes flooded out drive from Kabulwarnamyo) suffered delays due to COVID-19 travel restrictions. Interviews take place in community, so recruitment of the new Daluk Ranger Coordinator (originally planned for March/April 2020) had to be delayed until travel into Arnhem Land was safe.

With the Mamardawerre program set to begin late August/early September coordinator accommodation has been built and vehicles and gear procured so that the rangers can hit the ground running.

Philanthropy’s Impact

The Warddeken Daluk Ranger Program has been made possible by the generosity of philanthropists across Australia. The Karrkad Kanjdji Trust is supporting the scaling up of the Warddeken Program, and providing support to neighbouring ranger groups who are also focused on providing greater opportunity for women in the Indigenous ranger movement.

Despite the challenges of 2020 the Daluk Ranger Program continues to grow, learn, adapt and engage Indigenous women in caring for country, culture and educating the next generous of custodians. With flexibility and understanding from donors, the expansion of the Daluk program is well underway.

This year, the Australian Philanthropy Awards will be spread across nine categories, including three new Philanthropy Australia awards and one new cause-related award.

The awards recognise and celebrate extraordinary achievements in contemporary philanthropy for work that is visionary, high impact and transformative. They also celebrate partnerships between philanthropy and for-purpose organisations and honour those who are working to create lasting, positive change.

After a review, Philanthropy Australia has retired two Philanthropy Australia award categories and introduced three new awards that capture current best philanthropic practice. The new categories are Better Philanthropy AwardBolder Philanthropy Award and the Best Grant Program Award.

Nominations for the 2020 Australian Philanthropy Awards are open until 5:00 pm on Friday 28 August. Learn more and nominate here now.

COVID-19 Funding Opportunities

Access the Australian Communities Foundation National Funding Portal for philanthropic funders to connect with the funding opportunities available to tackle COVID-19.

Access Portal here

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