Exciting news from the Sydney Institute of Marine Science (SIMS)! We’re thrilled to share the progress of our 2024 Indigenous Youth Ranger Program, launched in partnership with the Metropolitan Local Aboriginal Land Council (MLALC). This initiative, funded by the generous contributions from the 2023 SIMS Foundation Emerald Gala Dinner, is making significant strides in marine conservation education and hands-on training for Indigenous youths. To our knowledge this is the first program of its kind in Australia where there is capacity building occurring specific to marine conservation and restoration that includes 2-way knowledge sharing with the SIMS team. 

Our team of Trainee Rangers, part of a select group of 10 Indigenous youths, has successfully completed snorkelling induction and training and received comprehensive first aid training, vital skills for their journey in marine research. In February, their commitment and excitement was palpable at the installation of our seahorse hotels at Balmoral Beach, an exciting way to initiate their work with SIMS.

These Trainee Rangers are not only supporting SIMS’s existing research projects but are also gearing up for an enriching journey ahead. With ongoing upskilling and mentorship from SIMS experts, they are laying the groundwork for initiating their conservation initiatives. This comprehensive program, blending Traditional Knowledge with contemporary conservation practices, aims to foster a deep connection with land and sea, echoing our commitment to environmental stewardship and cultural heritage.

Indigenous Ranger Trainees present at the installation of seahorse hotels at Balmoral Beach.
The team completing snorkelling inductions and training at Chowder Bay.

Beyond these remarkable achievements, the program has laid a solid foundation for the Trainee Rangers’ future endeavours. With a curriculum that marries practical skills with cultural education, guided by the wisdom of MLALC’s Cultural Heritage Officers Rowena Welsh-Jarrett and Jacqueline Gibbs, our rangers are embarking on a journey that honours their heritage while forging new paths in marine conservation.

The program’s scope is ambitious and holistic. It includes:

  • Skill Development: Ensuring Trainee Rangers acquire a suite of qualifications, including first aid, CPR, commercial boating licence (TAFE Cert II), and diving certifications, and a TAFE Certificate III course relevant to marine ecosystems.
  • Engagement in Research: Offering hands-on conservation experience by involving Trainee Rangers in SIMS research projects, thus providing practical exposure to real-world environmental challenges and solutions.
  • Mentorship and Guidance: Benefiting from the mentorship of nominated SIMS experts, the Trainee Rangers are supported throughout their learning journey, ensuring they are well-prepared to contribute effectively to marine science and conservation.
  • Community and Cultural Integration: Emphasising the importance of integrating Indigenous cultural values and knowledge into the program, fostering a respectful and inclusive learning environment that acknowledges and celebrates Indigenous heritage, including upskilling of SIMS staff and researchers in relevant cultural and Traditional Knowledge.

Together, we are nurturing the next generation of ocean change-makers, aligning with our vision for a healthy ocean valued by all. This program is not just an investment in their futures but a testament to the collaborative spirit between SIMS, MLALC, and the broader community, ensuring the principles of “caring for country” remain at the heart of our conservation efforts.