As part of this year’s NAIDOC Week celebrations, the Australian Nursing and Midwifery Federation (ANMF) is highlighting the work of the Country Needs People campaign.
With Country Needs People Pty Ltd., the alliance is made up of 40 Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders, land and sea management organisations and over 100,000 Australians. The purpose of the campaign is to centre Traditional Owner organisations so they can “effectively care for country and culture.”
The Chairperson of Country Needs People, Denis Rose, a Gunditjmara person, and Budj Bim IPA Manager at the Gunditj Mirring Traditional Owners Aboriginal Corporation, said there were strong reasons to empower Indigenous communities to look after their lands.
“We still face many challenges as peoples in accessing and managing our lands and seas. In some places we have been able to forge strong partnerships with other organisations, landholders, neighbours and governments that are genuine working partnerships,” Mr Rose explained.
“When that happens, we can see the multiple benefits that come to every Australian from backing the original owners of country to manage that country. In other places our countrymen struggle for access, recognition, resources and understanding but remain determined to care for their country.”
Mr Rose also noted that while the benefits are multiple, they extend across a number of environmental, political, social and economic lines.
“Caring for country means healthier biodiversity, sustaining and reconnecting with a multitude of living and vibrant cultures that form the core of our shared country’s identity.” he said.
“It means jobs in the regions, remote areas and even the cities, that create opportunity for individuals and families, it means laying the foundations for stronger constructive relationships with our neighbours, local, state and federal governments, non-profit organisations and industry.”
Country Needs People’s Executive Director, Patrick O’Leary, explained that the need for increased funding for Indigenous rangers and Indigenous land protection at the state and federal level, was a key focus of the campaign.
“Specifically, we are calling on the federal government to commit to doubling the number of Indigenous ranger positions over 10 years. This would increase the total number of Indigenous ranger jobs funded by the federal government from around 2100 to 4200,” Mr O’Leary said.
“This kind of commitment would be a game changer. It would show that Indigenous rangers are a service, like nursing and midwifery that provides real value to local communities and Australia as a whole and should grow in line with community demands and environmental needs.”
Mr O’Leary added that while 100,000 supporters across the country had already contacted politicians as part of the campaign, Country Needs People are planning to escalate their activities ahead of the forthcoming federal election, and ANMF members are encouraged to get involved.
“Over the coming months leading up to the federal election we will be calling on all political parties to outline how they plan to expand the Indigenous ranger and Indigenous Protected Area programs,” the Executive Director said.
“For this we need as many people as possible writing to their local members, candidates and party organisations and asking them how they plan to expand these programs.”
Running from 4-11 July, the theme of this year’s NAIDOC Week celebrations is Heal Country, with more information about this year’s theme and events available at the NAIDOC website.