Foundation for Rural & Regional Renewal

Warddeken, an Aboriginal owned not-for-profit company, combines traditional ecological knowledge with Western science to manage and protect one of Australia’s most unique environments.

Warddeken daluk (women) rangers Theona Namarnyilk and Suzannah Nabulwad setting monitoring cameras.


Arnhem Land covers 97,000 sq km of the top end of the Northern Territory.

During the second half of the twentieth century, many Traditional Owners were encouraged to move away from either remote parts of Arnhem Land and join missions, or larger communities to search for more ‘traditional’ work opportunities.

As a result, many parts of the area were left without people and ‘Country was orphaned’ – the term used for land without its people.

Over a number of decades fine-scale fire management was replaced by raging yearly wildfires, feral animals and invasive plants severely impacting the native species.

The plants and animals that make up the local ecosystems had previously evolved to rely on Bininj (the Aboriginal people of Western Arnhem Land), however the disruption in traditional Indigenous land management diminished the ecosystem and led to plummeting numbers of small to medium–weight mammals. This included culturally important species like djabbo / northern quoll and bakkadji / black-footed tree-rat. Refugia, including rainforest patches shrunk and fresh-water places were destroyed.

Getting things back on track

Warddeken is an Aboriginal-owned, not-for-profit company that combines traditional ecological knowledge with Western science to manage and protect one of Australia’s most unique environments.

Warddeken operates out of the remote homeland communities of Kabulwarnamyo, Manmoyi and Mamadawerre in west Arnhem Land. Each year up to 180 Indigenous rangers work on a variety of projects including fire management and carbon abatement, invasive weed and feral animal control, rock art conservation, education and cultural heritage management. 

In 2010 Aboriginal Elders from the Warddeken and Djelk IPAs established the Karrkad-Kanjdji Trust to seek philanthropic sources of funding for land management and cultural projects.

Last year, they received a $15,000 Seeds of Renewal grant from ANZ and FRRR to help fund a network of cameras that look into the prevalence of djabbo (northern quoll) on the land to understand the impact of its own land management practices and programs on this priority mammal species.

Students in a classroom with their teacher learning about science.
Djabbo (Northern Quoll), an endangered species caught on camera in the Warddeken Indigenous Protected Area.

Curbing the decline

Djabbo populations identified by the monitoring project are actively considered in annual early burning and wildfire suppression activities, and are targeted for further investigation for the purposes of building population resilience.

With meaningful involvement and employment of landowners and rangers, Warddeken will seek to define quoll and major predator feral cat population density and distribution to inform the design of predator suppression strategies if required.

Indigenous rangers, living and working on Country, are best placed to curb the decline in native biodiversity loss and improve habitat for future generations.

Rangers in West and Central Arnhem Land tirelessly blend Indigenous ecological knowledge and western science to control threats and help native species begin to thrive in their natural environment.

CEO of Karrkad Kanjdji Trust, Stacey Irving says “Warddeken’s vision is to have healthy people living and working on healthy country. The generous support of the ANZ Seeds of Renewal program is helping rangers care for species like the Djabbo.’’

Terrah Guymala, Senior Warddeken Ranger adds, “When we, Bininj people, see animals, we get excited because they play a big role in our life through our ceremonies.

“This year we have seen lots of animals that we love, but we hope this number increases so we can physically show our children rather than relying on rock art to tell the stories,” Terrah says.

ANZ General Manager Business Banking Jenefer Stewart says the ANZ Seeds of Renewal program has been providing grants for important initiatives in regional and rural Australia for nearly 20 years.

“Each year I look forward to seeing the difference the grants are able to make in these communities, many of which find it difficult to access the resources they need to grow, develop and prosper,” she says.

Written by Karly Dwyer, ANZ

Did you know that some schools in remote Australian communities might have as few as 15 books in their library?

That discovery in 2017 prompted Corey Tutt to start sourcing and supplying resources himself, initially from his personal library. DeadlyScience Limited was established in 2020, and is now a registered charity. Through DeadlyScience, Corey is seeking to inspire a new generation of scientists.
It focuses on providing Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics (STEM) and early learning reading resources to remote Australian schools to help increase engagement.

The initial priority is schools with a high proportion of Indigenous children. Where possible, and appropriate, DeadlyScience sources materials from Indigenous authors, artists, and translated versions in Indigenous languages. In the three and a bit years since inception, DeadlyScience has had more than 110 schools requesting resources.

They have delivered more than 16,000 books, 500 telescopes (and basic science kits), 80 educational resources and six greenhouses (plus seeds, and educational materials to support food production projects) to more than 100 Australian schools and/or communities.

This growth looks set to continue as the organisation gains more momentum and profile. Another key activity involves maintaining a website to support teachers in remote schools with access to high quality scientific research and relevant experts in their fields (also of Indigenous background, where possible). 

In 2020, DeadlyScience partnered with FRRR to set up a Not-for-Profit Fundraising Account, allowing them to attract tax deductible contributions from a broad range of donors to expand their activities and support the overall capacity and operations. 

You can add your support by donate securely online, or check out the DeadlyScience website to learn more about their work.

To learn more about opening a Not-For-Profit fundraising account, get in touch with Jo Kemp.

A Strengthening Rural Communities (SRC) grant from FRRR, funded with the support of the John T Reid Charitable Trusts, helped enhance the availability of fresh fruit, as well as create more inviting, welcoming and cool streets in the remote Indigenous communities of Peppimenarti and Nganmarriyanga in the Northern Territory.

Home to the Rakpeppimenarti people, the region is inaccessible for five months every year due to annual flooding, and faces extremely high infrastructure costs due to geographic scale and terrain. It was independently measured to be the most disadvantaged in the Northern Territory, and the second most disadvantaged in Australia.

The West Daly Regional Council provides basic housing maintenance and essential municipal services to 13 homelands across 14,070 km2. While they work hard to provide high quality services to support the community, operating in a remote service delivery environment with limited financial resources is a challenge. However, they’ve identified that working with partners to improve service delivery and the quality of life for people in the West Daly region presents great opportunities.

In such extremely remote communities, food security is paramount – many of the homeland communities do not even have a shop and must travel vast distances for basic supplies. Fruit trees are a great resource in any community, as they contribute to support lifelong learning and education from Elders to young children, and promote individual and community health benefits in the form of delicious natural fruits straight from the tree, while enhancing and expanding the communities’ natural food resources.

They developed a project designed to engage community members in growing food and also create shady areas on the two homelands. In total, around 160 fruit trees and 45 shade trees were planted in designated public spaces near parks, ovals, and the local schools. The fruit trees selected included: lilly pillies, medlars, mulberries, custard apples, jaboticas, guavas, mangos and soursops. Shade trees included: native hibiscus, red coondoo, bloodwood and gum trees.

The Council used their $4,946 SRC grant to cover the costs of fruit trees and propagation powder, as well as contribute to freight – which accounted for more than 40% of the total cost of the project.

In Peppimenarti, the tree planting was done in collaboration with Peppimenarti School. About 50 trees were planted around the community with the assistance of Council Staff, CDP, Rangers, community students and teachers, totalling approximately 50 participants. A community barbeque was held after the tree planting to thank the participants for their support on this meaningful community project.

The Nganmarriyanga tree planting day was held in late December and was also a great success, with approximately 50 local men, women and children attending the activity. Trees were also provided to the residents of surrounding homelands such as Merrepen, Nemarluk, Nama and Wudapuli. 

The Council provided significant in-kind support via staff labour and travel costs, and also purchased hormone rooting powder, so that cuttings can be taken which will allow further plantings. They have also assumed responsibility for ongoing plant maintenance to ensure the sustainability of the project.

Through this project, community members will gain access to healthy food grown locally, experience increased food security, and improved local plant knowledge. Further, the engagement will bring a positive impact to community spirit and local shade amenity.

“West Daly Regional Council would like to acknowledge the significant contribution of Foundation for Rural and Regional Renewal and its Donor Partner – John T Reid Charitable Trusts for the grant funding for our tree planting in Nganmarriyanga and Peppimenarti; a meaningful project that highly benefits our Indigenous Australians in our remote communities.”

Kristine Matienzo, Grants Manager, West Daly Regional Council

Schools are an important place for building cultural and environmental connections, and Gondwana Link Ltd realised that enhanced learning could only come from a curriculum relevant to the local context. Some of the schools and staff in the Gondwana Link region (1,000 km of south Western Australia) had no exposure to the culture of Indigenous Australians, and therefore teaching lessons with an Aboriginal perspective was very difficult for them.

The FRRR ANZ Seeds of Renewal grant program supported the Nowanup ‘Bush University’ Schools Program with a $12,500 grant for professional development for teachers and staff, deepening cross-cultural awareness and building Noongar language and cultural activities into the Australian National Curriculum.

Gondwana Link Ltd used the grant to engage Noongar Elder, Eugene Eades, and an education consultant to develop and implement a trial Professional Development opportunity for teachers and support staff from local primary schools.

Professional development was provided for 20 teachers and support staff within the Gondwana Link region in the format of a two-day Camp-on-Country at Nowanup.

The intention of this program was two-fold:

  1. To enable educators from the surrounding regions to develop a better appreciation of local Noongar cultural and heritage values, and to deepen their understanding of Noongar perspectives on management of the land, or Boodja, in the context of contemporary sustainable land restoration as practiced at Nowanup and throughout the Gondwana Link project.
  2. To have schools actively commit to improving their policies and procedures to be more responsive to Noongar cultural frameworks, thus presenting the ‘Indigenous content’ of the Australian Curriculum in a manner sensitive to the local Noongar context, and also better engaging with the local Noongar community.

The funding enabled two such camps to be designed, implemented and reviewed, and Gondwana Link Ltd now has a viable model to work from to move forward with future camps. The feedback was extremely positive and will also contribute to planning for the next series of professional development camps.

“I have learnt many things about the Noongar culture that I did not know. Their connection to the land is pivotal in their lives and spirit. This has made me think about my own connection to the land and how I can incorporate this into my classroom. I have found the inspirational stories of past teachers interesting and am constantly thinking about things I can change or incorporate to ‘make a difference’ to the students in my class.”

“I learnt an appreciation of the importance of incorporating local knowledge (both Noongar & white culture) into the curriculum.”

“I feel so privileged to be able to participate in such an incredible camp. I loved all of it but particularly the music and the stories. Seeing all the amazing things that are happening out here is so inspiring and beautiful, and I hope to be more involved in future. I really enjoyed seeing the breakaways and the artefacts and some of the beautiful places out here.”