Wellesley islands Rangers

The Wellesley Islands Rangers are exemplars of the Indigenous Ranger Biosecurity Program, playing a crucial role in protecting northern Australia from new pests, weeds and diseases from unregulated pathways.

The Wellesley Islands Rangers, located in the lower Gulf of Carpentaria in Queensland, have been keeping a Top Watch on the frontline, working with the Department of Agriculture, Water and the Environment for over 6 years.

The Ranger team is governed by the Gulf Region Aboriginal Corporation, the Prescribed Body Corporate representing the rights and interests of the Traditional Owners of the Wellesley Islands, and managed by Wellesley Islands Land and Sea Social Economic Development Pty Ltd. Carpentaria Land Council Aboriginal Corporation provides crucial support and mentoring, including employing a Land and Environment Projects Officer that works closely alongside the Wellesley Rangers.

The 4-ranger unit works across 22 islands known as the Wellesley Islands Group, as well as the community of Gununa on Mornington Island with a population of over 1,700.

Through their proactive management, regular and timely reporting of matters of potential biosecurity concern and accurate and responsive sample provision, the rangers have consistently demonstrated the value of people on-the-ground who know their Country and have genuine concern for protecting Australia from exotic weeds, pests and diseases.

The Indigenous Ranger Biosecurity Program provides rangers with skills and support to draw on conservation training and their intimate knowledge of Country to carry out a variety of activities on Australia’s biosecurity frontline. These activities include animal, plant and aquatic health surveillance, insect trapping and surveillance, plant host mapping, animal health reporting and biosecurity awareness. Indigenous rangers are a critical part of Australia’s early detection system for exotic pests and diseases in remote coastal areas across northern Australia. Their work helps protect Australia’s $60 billion agricultural industry as well as our priceless natural heritage.

Three examples of the high-quality work demonstrated by the Wellesley Islands Rangers and their outstanding contribution to northern Australia biosecurity are:

  • Detection of an introduced weed species (Solanum melanospermum) to the region, and ongoing monitoring for further occurrences of this species and any
    other new weeds that may have inadvertently been introduced to Mornington Island through imported road base materials or other means.
  • Investigation of a foreign bamboo raft, which lead to ruling out an invasive plant, aquatic or animal species. The activity demonstrated Wellesley Islands Rangers’ high level of biosecurity awareness, the presence
    they have within their community and the success of Indigenous rangers being on the frontline to identify and report suspicious activities.
  • Detection of Asian green mussel (Perna viridis) during a coastal surveillance activity. Asian green mussel is a non-native mussel that is not currently established in Australian waters. The role the Wellesley Islands Rangers played in this detection and the on-ground management of ongoing aquatic surveillance was crucial to a successful operation in a remote part of Australia. This highlights the rangers’ genuine belief in the importance of aquatic biosecurity.

The Wellesley Islands Rangers were nominated by Desley Darby and Darren Peck from the Northern Australia Quarantine Strategy, Department of Agriculture, Water and the Environment.