Queensland Indigenous Womens Ranger Network

Lauren Kania
Lauren Kania - Travel Editor 11 Min Read

Larissa Hale, one of the first Indigenous women rangers in Queensland, Australia, speaks about the inspiration behind the Queensland Indigenous Womens Ranger Network and the trailblazing work she and the organisation are doing to further both the environment and women.

The Great Barrier Reef, the world’s most extensive coral reef ecosystem and home to myriad vital marine species, is under environmental threat. 

Faced with a planet that is steadily warming, the once vibrantly colourful reef is now rapidly becoming bleached, while on land, flora and fauna are being decimated by increasingly regular bushfires. 

In response to these devasting ecological events, Indigenous women rangers from Queensland are banding together to empower each other and protect critical ecosystems. 

By bringing together ancient knowledge, passed down from generation to generation, alongside modern technologies, their work has proven to be critical. The collected data has provided unparalleled insight into one of the most important ecosystems on the planet, and as custodians of the land, the rangers have protected sites of great cultural and spiritual significance. 

“Aboriginal people have always looked after Australia. As the creators of a millennia worth of traditional ecological knowledge and an understanding of how to live amid changing environmental conditions, we are a part of the land and sea,” opens Larissa Hale, Founder and Managing Director of the Queensland Indigenous Womens Ranger Network (QIWRN). 

Yet, in Queensland, only 20 percent of Indigenous rangers are women – this is where QIWRN comes in. 

Established in 2018, QIWRN provides a forum for women rangers to share their experiences, ideas, and information, provide support and advice, and enable connections in remote and isolated communities. 

Co-designed by Indigenous women, government and non-government agencies, land councils, and other stakeholders, QIWRN is a highly collaborative programme that delivers lasting support, opportunities, and security for Indigenous women rangers across Queensland.   

“We place a strong focus on support, networking, health and well-being, community-led projects, mentoring, training, and empowerment,” details Hale. 

“Female Indigenous land and sea managers are unique, and this uniqueness needs to be embraced. Increasing a woman’s ability to participate in environmental protection creates a win-win for nature and the community.”


Having grown up splashing along the coastline of Queensland and climbing the spindly tendrils of mangrove trees, Hale joined the Yuku Baja Muliku (YBM) Land Corporation in 2007 as one of Queensland’s first woman rangers. 

She quickly realised that along with there being very few women rangers due to the prejudice of these roles being perceived as physical, male-only jobs, there were limited opportunities for training as the spots available were almost always taken by men within the industry. 

After recognising the lack of representation of Indigenous women within the ranger network, she decided to make a difference and invert these starkly disproportionate figures by creating an environment where women can collectively thrive. 

“Over the past six years, QIWRN has played a role in guiding and inspiring the next generation of women rangers. The programme has provided training to over 100 women, encouraging new conservation approaches by sharing knowledge and experiences,” expands Hale. 

Not only does the network provide training opportunities and help spark new ideas for women to utilise within their learning and development plans, but it ultimately allows them to interact with other women rangers prospering in their careers, providing a safe space where they can find their voice and share their stories. 

“Together, these women are supportive and inspiring community caregivers. By increasing their ability to participate in environmental protection, it creates a win-win for both nature and the community,” asserts Hale. 

QIWRN’s aim has always been to bring together strong and amazing Indigenous women rangers, showcase their talents, and promote their experiences and expertise. 

Highlighting female role models within these communities allows QIWRN to talk about, and normalise, women in ranger jobs, and will ultimately lead to more gender equity in employment rates.

“QIWRN’s aim has always been to bring together our strong, amazing Indigenous women rangers, showcase their talents, and promote their experiences and expertise”

Larissa Hale, Founder and Managing Director, Queensland Indigenous Womens Ranger Network


“There is no separation of country for us; it’s who we are,” asserts Hale. 

Australia’s Indigenous people – Aboriginals and Torres Strait Islanders – have called their country home for over 60,000 years, with the ecosystems serving as a crucial part of their identity and culture. 

“The Great Barrier Reef is over 8,000 years old, and we have been connected to our country for even longer. Before the sea level rose, we were living and thriving in those areas,” expands Hale. 

First Nations people make up five percent of the global population, yet they manage 25 percent of the total land. Significantly, this land contains 80 percent of the world’s remaining biodiversity, and there is incredibly strong evidence that it is often taken better care of than land not managed by First Nations people. 

Indigenous women, in particular, are a generation of action and hope, and through QIWRN, are becoming better recognised for their actions within Queensland. They are in the best place to drive change and move themselves forward to create a positive future – protecting cultural values, the land, and the sea in the process. 

With Indigenous rangers at the front line of land and sea management and conservation efforts, utilising both traditional knowledge and recent technological advances is becoming increasingly prevalent.   

“We are combining this ancient knowledge with modern tools such as underwater and aerial drones that monitor coral changes, bushfires, and land degradation. The mapping of fire practices with aerial drones is a great example of understanding fire scars and collecting valuable data,” insights Hale. 

This technology, employed alongside ancient knowledge, helps rangers with fire management, feral and animal control, native and threatened species monitoring, cultural heritage site protection, and more. By ensuring waterways and vegetation are flourishing on land, the water that flows to the reef and subsequently impacts sea life is healthy. 

“Traditional knowledge and Western science will create a better picture for the future management of the country,” voices Hale.


Despite growing concerns about climate change and the destruction of nature, Hale believes it isn’t too late to act. 

“We have the power to shift this now, but we must stand up, work together, and take action. Indigenous people all around the world have looked after the land and sea for thousands of years, and Western science is increasingly looking to old ways of doing to better prepare for the future,” she declares. 

In addition to creating a much-needed platform for Indigenous women rangers to come together, Hale recently co-authored a paper with developers of the Climate Vulnerability Index (CVI), investigating the application of CVI to assess climate change impacts upon some of YBM’s key values. 

By working with climate change scientists, they developed a process that is Traditional Owner-centric and places cultural values, risk, and management within an established climate change assessment framework. 

Hale also holds dual positions with the Great Barrier Reef Foundation as the Chair of the Traditional Owner Advisory Group and a member of the Partnership Management Committee, allowing her to advocate for the inclusion of Traditional Owners in the management and care of the sea. 

“A major part of what I fight for is to be able to look after our land, people, and future. Pride in our country is linked to caring for our land and people; the Great Barrier Reef Foundation has been a positive step, taking the lead in acknowledging that we need to do something and partnering with Traditional Owners to move forward,” explains Hale. 

The saying – healthy people, healthy country – is one that drives Hale, QIWRN, and the Great Barrier Reef Foundation on a daily basis. 

When Traditional Owners look after and care for their country, health is provided back to them in return. 

“I have so many amazing memories in my role. It has truly been a rollercoaster of a ride, but I am lucky to be able to work for something meaningful and ensure that I leave behind a better place for the future of the environment and Indigenous women,” concludes Hale.

Earthshot Prize, the winning moment


By Lauren Kania Travel Editor
Lauren Kania is an in-house travel writer for Outlook Travel Magazine, where she is responsible for crafting original travel features for the magazine, travel guides, and the digital platform.