News Caring for Country: Geoscience Australia strengthens ties with First Nations rangers

Published:19 December 2023

First Nations’ peoples hold the original knowledge of our land and sea. By linking their Caring for Country activities with Geoscience Australia’s Earth science data and knowledge, we can work together to achieve better outcomes to create a holistic view of our nation.

Through Geoscience Australia’s Exploring for the Future program’s Geoscience Knowledge Sharing project, the organisation is working with First Nations groups in Queensland and the Northern Territory.

Geoscience Australia’s Chief Scientist Dr Steve Hill and Geoscience Knowledge Sharing Project team members Dr Meredith Orr and Dr Stephanie Rees recently travelled to northwestern Queensland for collaborative work with the Lake Eyre Basin Rangers, a First Nations ranger team hosted by the Dugalunji Aboriginal Corporation. The Indjalandji-Dhidhanu People operate the ranger program and corporation as a social enterprise to support Traditional Custodian groups in Caring for Country throughout the Lake Eyre Basin in Queensland.

Geoscience Australia believes genuine engagement, two-way communication and knowledge sharing is integral to building partnerships with diverse stakeholders. The trip focused on strengthening these important ties and combining First Nations knowledge with Geoscience Australia’s data and expertise.

Lake Eyre Basin Camooweal Cave

“Geoscience Australia is well placed for these partnerships because our Earth Science data and knowledge of Australia’s landscape systems are fundamental to reading and living with Country,” Dr Hill said.

The Lake Eyre Basin Rangers provide natural resource management and heritage protection services across the Lake Eyre Basin to Traditional Custodian groups, landholders, local government and natural resource management bodies. The group is especially active in western Queensland where Geoscience Australia is learning to integrate geoscience with traditional ways of reading and understanding Country.

Geoscience Australia staff have been working with and training the Lake Eyre Basin Rangers to systematically describe soil profiles and integrate this information with land, water and ecosystem management. Ranger guides are currently being developed for release in mid-2024 and will help future Rangers record soil properties and place them in their landscape context for natural resource management and mapping applications.

“This kind of engagement with First Nations groups is essential to understanding the story of our land, and how people have cared for and continue to care for Country,” Dr Hill said.

Lake Eyre Rangers and Geosicence Australia teams

“As Earth scientists, we aim to understand the ancient and modern landscapes and what has influenced changes over time. Without the sharing of knowledge through this type of engagement, we are missing a huge piece of the puzzle.”

The Lake Eyre Basin Rangers management said they have found Geoscience Australia’s engagement and contribution of science outstanding, as well as the willingness to build trust and relationships with First Nations Peoples.

The Geoscience Knowledge Sharing project focuses on establishing relationships and improving engagement with diverse stakeholders and communities, including First Nations Australian communities, farmers and rural towns. Learn more about the project in Dr Meredith Orr’s Exploring for the Future Showcase presentation here.