Protection of the Great Barrier Reef is set to be boosted with the help of 40 new Indigenous rangers.
The rangers are being trained by the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority as part of a $30 million federal government program.
The authority’s Peta Ross said the rangers would help officials monitor remote parts of the World Heritage Area.
“It is a massive boost in resources for us so while they’re not formally government staff and attached to the authority, it is a massive resource on the ground,” she said.
“In particular, in locations which can be remote and difficult for us to get into quickly.”
The rangers will be responsible from patrolling areas between Gladstone to the tip of the Cape York Peninsula.
Wilfred Peter, from the Yintjingga Aboriginal Corporation based near Coen in far north Queensland, is one the rangers taking part in the program.
He said the role of looking after country is important to traditional owners.
“It has been passed down from generation to generation for us to look after our country,” Mr Peter said.
“My family was forcibly moved in the late 1950s and taken to a different place, a place up in far north Queensland called Injinoo.
“We moved back during the late ’80s and we fought for land rights to get our country back.
“I feel proud that I’m working on country, even though I work away from home. But I have come back with the skills that I can actually use where I’m now.”
Jessica Vakameilalo from Juru Enterprises, near Bowen in north Queensland, said the training would help her protect her land.
“I’m pretty proud to be a part of this, really honoured. Once we have this all in play we can go back to the old people and reinforce our laws on that land and protect land and sea,” she said.
“There’s some degree of misuse on Juru country … misuse as in fishing in green zones.
“I’m only one person, but getting the community involved and educating everyone will be the key to this. Not just on Juru’s behalf, but everyone.”
The Country Needs People campaign has been lobbying for extra funding for ranger programs across the country.
Spokesman Patrick O’Leary said such programs should be given long-term funding.
“We could be even be more ambitious and look to the very long term — 10, 20 years — and give that security and people can get on and do their jobs and we can get better outcomes,” Mr O’Leary said.
The rangers will also help local communities implement voluntary turtle and dugong management plans.