Briefing paper

Aboriginal rangers, their communities and the CLC believe the benefits of their work extends far beyond the obvious environmental outcomes. Ranger employment also creates significant social, cultural and economic benefits.

In 2017, the CLC partnered with independent research groups to test the scientific evidence for these claims. The National Centre for Epidemiology and Population at the Australian National University (ANU) undertook an epidemiological study of rangers (epidemiological study), while two anthropologists with extensive experience in central Australia qualitatively evaluated the program’s progress and opportunities for improvement (qualitative evaluation).

The researchers developed a survey instrument in partnership with rangers and other CLC staff and used it to collect data from the rangers and a comparison group of Aboriginal people from central Australia. The rangers also participated in follow up discussions of the findings with the researchers and jointly presented them in 2018 at at a seminar at the Australian National University in Canberra.

Key Findings:

  • The epidemiological study found that ranger work is linked to higher family wellbeing and life satisfaction.
  • In the qualitative evaluation, rangers responded positively to interview questions about their purpose, self-worth, value and feelings. This is significant given the considerable social, economic and cultural stresses that many Aboriginal people and their families report.
  • Rangers must build on their relationships with elders to develop their work. These relationships underpin the transfer of cultural knowledge and lead to effective land management; for example, rangers assist traditional owners to locate, clean and burn areas around sacred sites. 
  • The epidemiological study and the qualitative evaluation found that rangers learn and apply cultural knowledge, therefore maintaining and strengthening such knowledge.

The epidemiological study and the qualitative evaluation researched the many benefits Aboriginal individuals, families and their communities derive from the CLC’s ranger program. Ranger work generates significant wellbeing for individuals and their families, increased income, and supports community activity across the CLC region. It supports the learning and use of cultural knowledge which is important to many Aboriginal lives in central Australia. The research was conducted in 2017. If the CLC continues to build on these findings, a fuller picture of the benefits of ranger work will emerge over time. The CLC will continue to conduct robust and rigorous monitoring and evaluation of its ranger program.

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