The Coalition Government is committed to the Indigenous Protected Area Program and has supported its implementation and expansion since it was established by the Howard Government in 1997. We have maintained and built on this support by increasing the funding available for Indigenous rangers since it entered government in 2013.
I am advised by the Minister for Indigenous Affairs, Senator Nigel Scullion, that more than 2600 First Australians are now employed as Indigenous rangers as a result of the Coalition Government’s investment of more than $425 million over five years for Indigenous rangers and Indigenous Protected Areas (IPAs).
As at December 2016, 74 dedicated IPAs covering more than 65 million hectares had been established comprising more than 45 per cent of the National Reserve System, protecting Australia’s biodiversity on behalf of all Australians.
Coupled with the government’s Indigenous Ranger Program, funded under the Indigenous Advancement Strategy, the IPA program also strengthens Indigenous employment outcomes especially in remote communities.
Indigenous rangers undertake important work to protect and conserve threatened species, marine systems and cultural places, and address environmental threats caused by feral animals, invasive weeds, marine debris and wild fire.
The IPA delivers considerable environmental and cultural benefits while supporting better outcomes in a range of other areas, from improved health, to increased wellbeing and self-confidence, lower rates of violence and crime and greater economic security.
The current Coalition Government funding commitment for the IPA program is $74.1 million over five years through to 2018. The government is currently reviewing funding of IPAs as part of a broader review of the National Landcare Program. IPA funds remain committed to June 30, 2018 and an announcement regarding future funding under this programme will be made following the current review.
You may be interested to know that the government has also strengthened the role and functions of Indigenous rangers by introducing the Specialised Indigenous Ranger Program to enable Indigenous rangers to access technical training and a wider range of job opportunities. This $2 million program has strengthened the compliance and enforcement powers of Indigenous rangers and supported Indigenous communities to manage the sustainable traditional harvest of dugongs and turtles and improve marine conservation along the Far North Queensland coast.
Our $12.4 million Indigenous Ranger Biosecurity Initiative will also increase biosecurity surveillance, skills, participation and employment across Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities in Northern Australia. This will assist in providing an alternative employment stream in biosecurity work for rangers wishing to transition their skills.
The government is absolutely committed to our support for Indigenous rangers and will continue to work with ranger groups to deliver better outcomes for Indigenous communities.