New base to bring opportunity for rangers

RANGER BASE: The official opening of the Budj Bim Rangers depot was cause for celebration. Picture: Aidan Curtis.

Aidan Curtis

THE official opening of a permanent ranger base in Portland will build opportunities for First Nations people in regional Victoria.

Winda-Mara Aboriginal Corporation (WMAC) opened its Budj Bim Rangers base just outside of Portland on Thursday, April 20.

The base was purchased with help from an Indigenous Land and Sea Corporation (ILSC) funding injection to give the Rangers more agency to grow and protect the environment.

Budj Bim Rangers senior ranger Ben Church said having a permanent base to call their own would mean the rangers could do more for the community.

“To have this space, it really highlights our resilience as a community and as Gunditjmara people and traditional owners,” he said.

“But also now to have a space where we can offer employment and build our ranger program and offer mob, particularly our young ones coming out of school, a pathway into employment, it gives us a chance to build their capacity, their knowledge base, and give them training to hopefully move into other roles within different organisations.

“Which is what we’ve seen through the ranger program – we build their capacities and they can move into government roles and other roles.”

Mr Church said they had outgrown their previous depot and could better protect their assets now, while also looking to the future for further growth.

“To have an establishment here as you’re heading into Portland, it highlights where we’ve come from and the work we’ve done to purchase the depot,” he said.

“We’ve got aspirations to develop a native nursery where we can propagate our own seeds.

“We’re working on planning now for a café and a space to sell merchandise – that merchandise space can support local artists who can use the facilities here to sell some of their artwork.”

WMAC board chair and Gunditjmara elder Uncle Michael Bell said the new base was an exciting development for the community.

“The development of Indigenous businesses on the site will form a place where community members can obtain employment and training to improve their career opportunities,” Uncle Michael said.

ILSC chief executive Joe Morrison said opening the base was a great celebration for the Gunditjmara people and their connection to country.

“The building is not just somewhere to house equipment,” he said.

“It’s a space for bringing community together, where they can share knowledge and culture and create new enterprises.

“It’s this sharing of knowledge that will lead to greater Gunditjmara self-determination.”