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History Of Our
Ranger Program.

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Anangu tjutaku children and grandchildren have good knowledge of all aspects of the land, language and stories and keep passing them on to their children


Management and implementation of the Anangu Tjutaku IPA Plan builds on the framework established for the successful, community-driven Spinifex Healthy Country Plan.

To Anangu tjutaku, all country in the IPA is important, and there are lots of things about country that are valued: the animals and plants; the landscape; the water; and the connection to culture. All these things have great cultural and spiritual importance, and Anangu tjutaku have stories about many of these things that help in understanding them and keeping them healthy.

Anangu tjutaku are determined to engage in two-way learning with science and other disciplines, and to continue training programs to meet this aspiration.

Western knowledge and tools can be used in combination with traditional ecological knowledge to deal with problems that have emerged more recently such as how to control Camels and weeds, and how to protect sensitive places from unauthorised people visiting them. Skills and training in both ways of knowledge helps young people find employment and gives them the incentive to learn more about Country from the older people.





Goal: Reduce the number of large, hot fires by increasing the number of smaller, cooler fires by 2030

Fire is an essential component of Anangu tjutaku life, economy, and management of country. Aside from a few individuals,  Anangu tjutaku began incrementally moving in from the central Spinifex-Pilki homelands beginning in the 1950s before returning en masse in the 1980s. This has resulted in a shift in the desert created by the absence of Anangu tjutaku in the landscape leading to a lack of fire at the appropriate scale (i.e., many small seasonal fires). This has led to today’s pattern of a few large, hot summer wildfires supplemented by hunting fires within a, generally, 100 km radius of Tjuntjuntjara.


Rangers are working to bring back appropriate-scale fire for the benefit of all and are increasingly using helicopters in the program, initially to plan where not to burn from the air (i.e. locating and documenting sites and areas that should not be burnt). People need to be on country regularly to decide where they need to use Waru (fire) to promote new growth that will encourage the animals to come back, and to concentrate them into areas to make hunting easier. Fires need to be lit in the right places at the right times to make sure there is new growth for the animals to eat and that areas that should not be burnt are protected.


Fire is both a threat and a management and protection tool. For example, the best way to protect culturally significant sites that should not burn is by burning around them to create a buffer. In other areas, the lack of fire can be an issue leading to homogeneity in the landscape and reduction in number of important bushfoods and medicine plants that rely on bare ground created by fire.





Goal: Priority kapi places (water sources) are healthy, looked after regularly and visited in a culturally appropriate way

As the primary kapi (water) sources in Anangu Tjutaku Country, rockholes and soaks were essential for survival of both Anangu and native animals. These sites were, and are, integral to the cultural fabric of the IPA and Tjukurpa. As the main traditional camping places, they are near the birthplaces of many of the older people, who have responsibilities for looking after them as well as for passing on stories, responsibilities, and authority to access them to younger generations.


Native animals, including kangaroos, emus, small mammals, and some bird species rely on rock holes and soaks for water. Water sources now attract feral animals as well, especially Camels – a group of which can empty and foul up a large rockhole in one visit. It is harder now for the older people to get out on country to keep checking on the rock holes and soaks to make sure they are still healthy. Some of the kapi places should not be visited by non-Anangu. In the last few years, Spinifex Land Management has begun using knowledge of Elders in management of water sources, particularly those Elders who lived traditionally for many years. This has been done by visiting these sites with older people who speak for them and documenting how each site was looked after traditionally. This is a crucially important story to tell as Anangu tjutaku are leading the way by reinstating traditional water source management. Anangu tjutaku want to share this story so that others can think about it themselves and potentially change the way they manage kapi, particularly if what they are doing now is different to what was done traditionally.


People also get kapi now from some 13 shed tanks that have been constructed along the tracks by Spinifex Rangers. These are important because they make it easier and safer to spend time out on country. Several shed tanks within road reserves are for everyone to use, not just Anangu tjutaku.


By observing the restrictions on visitor access, culture is respected and the chances of introducing weeds, feral animals, erosion, or rubbish is also reduced. Shed tanks are also part of the Community Infrastructure target.



Goal: Kuka (bush meat) are always there and available where and when Anangu tjutaku expect them to be.

Kuka is the primary source of sustenance. Hunting for animals like Malu (Red Kangaroo, Macropus rufus), Kulpirpa (Western grey kangaroo, Macropus fuliginosus) and Kipara (Australian bustard, Ardeotis australis) is an important community activity, although it is the men who do most of the hunting for larger game and are solely responsible for cooking, cutting up and distributing kuka ( Bush meat.) Other animals that are hunted or collected for eating include Tinka (Sand Goanna, Varanus gouldii), Kuniya (Carpet Snake, Aspidites ramsayi), Maku (Witchetty grub) and Ngintaka (Perentie, Varanus giganteus). Some introduced species are actively sought and eaten, including rabbit and Wiikya (Feral cat). Rabbits have, by necessity, largely replaced small native mammals (e.g., Marura, Bilby) in the diet of Anangu tjuta as those species have suffered significant declines in the last 100 years or so.


Kuka isn't always easy to find. Animals like Malu and Kulpirpa move around after fires and rain to feed on the new growth. Kipara will go to areas that have been burnt to feed on the insects that are easier to find there.  Monitoring kuka, particularly within 100 km or so of Tjuntjuntjara, will become increasingly important. While kuka is plentiful in this region now, as Tjuntjuntjara’s population grows and the community develops further, more hunting pressure will be put on this area and the animals within it.


Plant Foods
and Medicines.

Mai and ngankari 

Goal: Mai and ngankari (plant foods and medicines) are always there and available when Anangu tjutaku expect them to be there

Anangu tjutaku traditionally used bush plants for a range of reasons, including as food and medicine. Bush plants foods and medicine are available at different times of the year and often from specific areas, and these supplement kuka (bush meat) 


A lot of the food and medicine plants are gathered by women, although men are also involved. Among the different types of plants used for bush foods are fruits like Wayanu (Quandong, Santalum acuminatum), Kampurarpa (Bush Tomato, Solanum orbiculatum) and Tarulka (mulga Apple). Seeds were collected from grasses (Wangunu, Naked woolybutt, Eragrostis xerophila) and used for making damper. Yams or tubers can be dug up from certain plants (e.g. Murchisonia volubilis) and eaten raw or cooked, and different types of mushrooms come up after rains or cool weather. Other plants can be used for nectar (e.g. Kaliny-kaliynpa, Eremophila latrobei), or have edible seeds (Portulaca olearacea).


Some plants, such as Imangka-imangka (Eremophila sp.) can be used as medicines by making a tea from their leaves or creating ointments. Other bush foods include insects, like Tjala (honey ants) and Maku (Witchetty grubs) found in certain wattle species (e.g. Watarka, Acacia ligulate and Ilykuwara, Acacia kempeana).


Anything that damages the vegetation or makes the ground harder to dig can affect bush foods and medicines. Some might also need waru ( fire ) to encourage populations to grow. On the other hand, if they are sensitive to waru (fire) they might need to be protected from it by burning around the population. Buffel grass can completely replace native plants through competition, and also increases the risk of intense fires. Camels are especially damaging and will destroy quandongs and many other plants throughout the landscape.



(Nganamara, Tjakura, Sandhill Dunnart

Goal: No more animals or plants are lost from Anangu Tjutaku Country, and the ones that are threatened now become more common by 2030

Many of the smaller animals that used to live in the IPA are not found any more or are not as abundant as they once were. Some of these animals have been listed as Threatened or Vulnerable by the Australian Government, including Nganamara (Malleefowl), Sandhill Dunnart, Tjakura (Great Desert Skink) and the Princess Parrot. Some of the reasons that these animals are harder to find include problem predators such as cats, foxes and wild dogs, bad fire, weed invasion, or a combination of these things. By managing threatened species and the threats to them, such as bad fire, introduced predators, weeds and managing visitors, other animals are also likely to benefit as will country more generally.


Nganamara ( Malleefowl ) occur across a wide area of semi-arid and arid Australia. In more arid areas (including within the IPA), they occur at extremely low densities and their numbers may have decreased because of predators (foxes, cats, dingoes) but possibly also because of changes in the way fires have occurred. They might need small scale burning of spinifex habitat around mallee and mulga to protect old woodlands. Nganamara tracks are easily recognised and can help in estimating how many are in an area. Their eggs have traditionally been an important source of sustenance for Anangu tjutaku while Nganamara also features in Tjukurpa. 


Sandhill Dunnarts dig burrows under large spinifex clumps, and they are known to still occur elsewhere in the Great Victoria Desert, but it is unclear if there is suitable habitat for them or if they are still present within the IPA, and if so, where they are, how many there are, and what things are affecting them. They dig large burrows, often under spinifex, and their burrows can be identified by the kuna (scat) areas near the burrow entrances. 


Many other small animals still occur in the IPA but like Nganamara, Tjakura and Sandhill Dunnarts, they are likely to be less common than they used to be. Some of the older people believe that there might still be a few Marura (Bilby) in the northern part of the IPA. By continuing to do track-based surveys and using motion-sensor cameras we are able to measure the effectiveness of our management actions. 

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Buffel Grass.
( And weed Management )

Goal: Manage intrusive Buffel Grass to reduce and control spread. 

While the IPA is overwhelmingly in pre-European condition, some environmental weeds are established. These weeds were introduced initially by vehicles from other Anangu tjutaku communities, visitors and potentially by machinery or maintenance vehicles travelling to and working in Tjuntjuntjara. The most serious of the weeds currently present is Buffel Grass (Cenchrus ciliaris). Buffel Grass has the capacity to dramatically change the nature of the arid lands as has been seen in other parts of central Australia. 


Over large areas it will out-compete native species through direct competition for resources and through being able to carry fire and respond more quickly than less fire-tolerant species. This can result in Buffel Grass dominating a landscape and greatly reducing habitat diversity.


Aboriginal people have found that areas with high densities of Buffel Grass provide limited hunting opportunities and little in the way of mai and ngankari gathering.


Buffel Grass is arguably the most threatening process to biodiversity and other values to the IPA. The entire IPA provides suitable habitat for Buffel Grass and, if it keeps spreading unchecked, it will rapidly colonise vast areas with resultant hotter and more frequent fires.


Spinifex Land Management, since inception and increasingly since 2016, has been actively managing Buffel Grass across Spinifex and Pilki. For example, since 2016 over 2,900 km of roads and tracks have been mapped for Buffel Grass. Using a combination of burning and herbicide application, over 140 hectares out of a known 186 ha containing Buffel Grass have had at least one treatment. There are a few other weeds within the IPA, including Saffron Thistle, Ruby Dock and Caltrop but these are isolated and can be easily controlled. To reduce the threat of introduced weeds, particularly Buffel Grass, consistent, high quality management over decades is required.

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Trees and


Goal: The IPA is healthy, with culture strong on country, connected Tjukurpa and looked after by Anangu tjuta

Punu (trees and plants) is symbolic of the Anangu Tjutaku IPA landscape. Beyond values held by food and medicine plants , trees and plants are inherently valuable for shade, navigation, their role in Tjukurpa and provision of tools such as koala (spears) miru (spear-thrower), piti (bowl or dish), tjuna (hitting stick), wana (women’s digging stick) and punu timpilypa (clap sticks).


Healthy trees and plants are a sign that the country is healthy and vegetation, but also to a blend of ages in each vegetation type as it is diversity that provides for productivity in the landscape. Trees and plants are also an indicators of the health of country.


The land management practices that Anangu tjutaku have used in the past need to be kept alive and some reactivated where they have not been maintained. Waru (fire) following traditional burning patterns is the main practice that needs to be reactivated and maintained so that the diversity of the IPA is protected and large, damaging wildfires are reduced. The IPA is mostly healthy now, but many of the small animals the older people remember are gone now. To prevent losing any more, the right waru is needed and cats, foxes and wild dog numbers need to be kept down. Camels also need to be controlled, as they are damaging the vegetation and kapi. In some areas introduced weeds, particularly Buffel Grass, are starting to displace native plants. 

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Goal: Manage camel numbers to protect land, plants and trees ( punu ) and water ( kapi )

Feral Camels have been known to the Anangu tjutaku since before contact with Europeans some 60 years ago. Since their arrival, feral Camels have only occasionally been a source of meat. Anangu tjutaku strongly prefer native kuka such as Malu (Red Kangaroo) and Kipara (Australian Bustard).


Camels have been considered a problem by Anangu tjutaku for several years due, primarily, to the impact they have on kapi (water sources), sacred sites and important punu ( trees and plants ) such as Wayanu (Quandong, Santalum acuminatum).


One of the most visual impacts of the effects of Camels can be seen on kapi (water sources) places. Camels are mobile, widespread and can drink soaks completely dry, and in trying to get more water they dig down and can get stuck in the mud and die there, fouling the soak. They can also fall into full or partly full rockholes and drown. Their carcasses make the water inaccessible and undrinkable for people and other animals. They can severely damage plants like quandong and other punu with high moisture content in their foliage as they break the branches to access the best foliage. They also disturb or damage important Tjukurpa sites.


In 2010 Spinifex Rangers took part in the Australian Feral Camel Management Project (AFCMP) and began removing feral Camels from the IPA by undertaking accredited training to enable ground-based culling. Rangers also improved access to areas north of Ilkurlka where feral camel densities were relatively high since surveys first started in 2010.


The best approach was the integration of aerial and ground-based removal. Following a significant reduction in Camel numbers Rangers have maintained ground-based removal of Camels through both opportunistic and targeted activities. Ground-based removal continues to this day and forms part of the camel management project. 

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