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Wednesday, 13 September 2017
Page: 7217

Senator PRATT (Western Australia) (18:40): I would also like to thank Senator Hinch for putting this issue on record for us this evening. I feel very lucky to represent the state of WA. In our backyard, we have a unique and wonderful abundance of wildlife, flora and fauna, and especially our marine life. I know you, Madam Acting Deputy President, will wholeheartedly agree with me. Along our 13,500 kilometres of coastline, which is phenomenal, we have marine life from massive whale sharks and humpbacks to the much smaller sea turtles that are part of tonight's debate. Of the seven species of sea turtle across the world, six of them appear in the Kimberley coastline and five of those species are also known to nest there. There are dugongs from Shark Bay all the way up over the Northern Territory and the north, but there's a big part of Western Australia that is known as one of the world's best habitats for dugong.

There is no doubt that the existence of sea turtles on the WA coast is particularly at threat. Our state's Environmental Protection and Biodiversity Act has listed the loggerhead and olive ridley species as endangered, meaning that if the current threats to their existence continue they will become extinct. This same act lists the hawksbill green and flatbacked turtles as vulnerable, which means their populations are also at risk of becoming endangered.

As has been highlighted already by others in this debate, the Indigenous ranger programs around our nation have a really important role to play in marine conservation. They are successfully doing so in Western Australia. Both the Nyangumarta and the Nyul Nyul rangers have been working to protect the sea turtle species in WA. They've been doing this by monitoring the turtles' activities, particularly during nesting times, and they're monitoring the nesting through the warmer parts of the year when they nest. I can also put on record tonight that the Pormpuraaw Land and Sea Rangers in the Cape York Peninsula have recognised the threat posed by feral pig populations that affect the reproduction of sea turtles along their coast. Feral pigs are killing endangered marine turtles by destroying their nests and eating the eggs that are left behind. So it's not just human threats to this wildlife; it is, indeed, the feral animals as well. The rangers have been culling feral populations, monitoring for predation by the pigs to these nesting areas and providing predator-proof cages for the turtles.

The Kimberley Land Council raised with me recently—and I had the privilege of going to their ranger conference a few weeks ago—the importance of them having proper regulatory and policing powers to do their work as rangers in order to protect these species. This is so that the kinds of examples that Senator Hinch has been talking about can be properly policed by our Indigenous rangers. This will take training and investment in their skills, and it also means that they need to be paid properly for this work. Our ranger communities are the people on our coastline. This is their community and their environment. They're connected by culture to the coastline, and they are the right people to be doing this work. It's not like there is a particularly big presence of any other surveillance along the coast in these circumstances. So it's critical that rangers be empowered to do this work. I'm particularly pleased that federal Labor committed at the budget to providing $210 million over five years to double the number of Indigenous rangers under the Working on Country program, and I really hope that they will be able to make a contribution to this important work. (Time expired)