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Calls for Government to fund indigenous ranger training -

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MARK COLVIN: When Malcolm Turnbull handed down the annual report card on Indigenous disadvantage last week, he promised that his Government would start working with Indigenous people to "close the gap".

Indigenous leaders welcomed that statement with scepticism.

They say they've heard those words before.

Now, they want the Federal Government to put its money behind existing programs that are already closing the gap, but aren't funded adequately.

Imogen Brennan reports.

IMOGEN BRENNAN: The town of Norseman is in a remote and picturesque part of south-western Australia.

The traditional owners of the land are the Ngadju people.

LES SCHULTZ: It's in the Great Western Woodlands of Western Australia. We've got eucalypt hills, salt lakes and we've got blue bush country. We've got a little bit of everything.

IMOGEN BRENNAN: Les Schultz is a community elder.

LES SCHULTZ: It's an amazing place because I guess we're the only town in 200 kilometres in any direction you point.

IMOGEN BRENNAN: For about five years, the Ngadju community has been running an Indigenous ranger program, which encourages Aboriginal people to work on and care for their land.

So far, about 30 people have been trained in fire prevention as well as weed and feral animal management.

LES SCHULTZ: Right now we've got ferals that are just out of proportions, we've got weeds that are just not being managed by Government because Government's cut right back with its funding on every department. You know we're here, we can bring a positive to all of this.

IMOGEN BRENNAN: The Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull said last week's Closing the Gap report on Indigenous disadvantage had "mixed" results.

Just two of the seven goals in the areas of life expectancy, employment, reading, writing and school attendance were on track.

Les Schultz says their volunteer program is reducing the gaps the Government is trying to close.

LES SCHULTZ: We've got less people using the detox unit now at our hospital. Alcohol was a huge problem here. We had to go into restrictions and stuff in the past.

Once the ranger program was put into place - the people out in country, they're walking around, they're exercising, they're eating good tucker. And it's giving our kids a purpose.

We're ready to hit the straps out here, we just need to be helped, resourced to start running and get the job done.

IMOGEN BRENNAN: The Ngadju rangers are being trained as part of the Indigenous ranger program.

It was introduced by the coalition government in 2007, and broadened by Labor under Kevin Rudd.

It currently receives about $83 million per year, which creates 770 full time positions.

But the demand for the jobs is so high; many groups like the Ngadju rangers aren't getting paid.

Patrick O'Leary is from the non-profit environment group Pew Charitable Trusts. He says there's a backlog of people waiting for the paid ranger jobs.

PATRICK O'LEARY: Certainly our Indigenous partners on the ground tell us that if anything is closing the gap, this kind of job does - working on country is something that's really sought after on the ground.

IMOGEN BRENNAN: Not only do Indigenous leaders want the $83 million doubled in the Coalition's May budget, they want a commitment to extend the current funding past 2018.

Les Schultz again.

LES SCHULTZ: It ticks every box you can think of. We just gotta step out there and say bloody fair go mate, it's time for these people to get back on country and we're going to help them.

IMOGEN BRENNAN: The Treasurer Scott Morrison was not available for comment.

His office referred PM to the Minister for Indigenous Affairs, Nigel Scullion. He is currently travelling in the Northern Territory and was not available for an interview.

A written statement from his office said: "The Minister will not speculate on funding to be contained in the 2016-17 budget. Any decisions regarding funding beyond 2018 will be considered closer to the date."

Shayne Neumann is the shadow minister for indigenous affairs.

SHAYNE NEUMANN: There are communities all around the country particularly in remote, regional communities, that are very much reliant upon the funding for this program to support their communities, put food on the table and make sure that the necessities of life are provided.

MARK COLVIN: That's the shadow minister for indigenous affairs, Shayne Neumann, ending Imogen Brennan's report.