Exhibition shares the Working on Country story
The story of Australia’s hundreds of Working on Country rangers is on show in a photographic exhibition at the Australian National Botanic Gardens. Participants in the Australian Government’s Working on Country and Indigenous Protected Areas programs were invited to get out their cameras and start snapping for the third biennial Working on Country Photography Competition.
Torres Strait Islander woman Chrissy Grant said she and her fellow judges were amazed by the diversity of images entered in this year’s competition.
“There was a really interesting mix of photographs that told a story, from caring for country in a traditional way by gathering bush foods through to monitoring and looking after species using modern technology,” she said.
“We have ranger groups in the Torres Strait as well as way down in the desert in the APY Lands, working on very different land and sea projects, so we were really conscious of making sure we were able to reflect the range within the exhibition.”
Of the 120 entries, 40 were chosen by the judges for exhibition at the Botanic Gardens.
The images are also displayed online at the Department of Sustainability, Environment, Water, Population and Communities (SEWPAC) website, where visitors can vote for their favourite to win the People’s Choice Award. In addition to the usual first, second, third and SEWPAC staff awards, two new categories were added this year: youth and women on country.
“Junior rangers are being encouraged through the schools now, kids getting out on country and helping rangers with their work, so we thought they deserved to be recognised with an award too,” Chrissy said.
Wanggawuy “Grace” Mununggurritj and Amy Rayner travelled from Dhimurru in the Northern Territory to receive the Second Place and Women on Country awards on behalf of fellow Dhimurru ranger Lisa Roeger.
Grace was also the star of one of Lisa’s winning shots, where she is seen working in the Dhimurru nursery. She says the work she does on country is what her family has been doing for generations to protect their land.
Such activities often go unnoticed by the general public but Chrissy hopes the exhibition will help to change that.
“I don’t think there’s a value that’s been put on the contribution that Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people do out there in caring for country,” Chrissy said.
“Managing and monitoring feral pests, trying to mitigate further damage to threatened species, using burning to promote regrowth, removing ghost nets from beaches in the Top End – this is all really important for Australia’s wellbeing, not just the individual communities.
“The stories shown in this exhibition help to give people some understanding of what Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people do when they care for country, which is so important.”
- First: Jane Hodson, Central Land Council Munguru Munguru Rangers
- Second: Lisa Roeger, Dhimurru Rangers
- Third: Vanessa Drysdale, Dhimurru Rangers
- Youth Award: Tamara Harvey and Rachel Peter, Mapoon Land and Sea Rangers
- Women on Country: Lisa Roeger, Dhimurru Rangers
- Staff Award: Jasmina Muhic, SEWPAC
- People’s Choice: Voting closes 6 August 2012