By Lyndal Scobell

Pisolite country was the red carpet, stars were everywhere, cameras flashed and smiles were wide, as the Mapoon Rangers celebrated their hard work and dedication to caring for country at a December graduation ceremony, 2012.

Fifteen rangers and council staff graduated from various certificate courses in conservation and land management; or from completd training sessions in boat handling, applied chemicals and shorebird identification.

Five junior rangers also received awards.

Thomas Pitt, a Traditional Owner, has a leadership role within the Land and Sea Ranger team.

Thomas said that he and his family are proud of his membership in the specialised team because he is learning to combine cultural and environmental ways of caring for country.

“I can pass down cultural knowledge to my son because of my position as a ranger in the community,” Mr Pitt said.

As part of the Land and Sea Ranger program, Mr Pitt recently had the opportunity to fly over his country.

“Seeing the land from the air was amazing. It showed we have been caring for the land traditionally, because it is still in its natural state," Thomas said.

People from the Wenlock River need to have their voices heard about caring for the land and water, from the mouth, to the highest point. It’s for my son,” he said.

 Edwin Ling's and Jocelyn de Jersey's faces beamed with pride,  as they received their awards for graduation from Certificate II, Conservation and Land Management.

They are both young, shy, and keen about the practice of conservation and land management in Mapoon. Edwin has been hunting on his traditional lands since he can remember, and through his participation in the ranger program, he has been able to access country he has never before visited.  Part of his exploration included a stretch of the river where his grandfather passed away.

“The more I learn about my country and our history - the more I want to know,” he said.

Jocelyn lived away from Mapoon for a few years, is happy to be back, and is proud to be a Land and Sea Ranger. A budding photographer, her family recently supported her hobby with a gift of a quality camera. Now Jocelyn takes beautiful photos to document the great work the rangers do.

Jane Blackwood has been the coordinator of the Mapoon Rangers for almost three years, a job she finds very rewarding.

“I love seeing the pride in the faces of the rangers when they receive their certificates. It’s a really proud moment for their families too, as knowing their children have graduated brings prestige to the family.

The training is tough.  If a student does not work hard, they don’t pass, so graduation means the rangers have really applied themselves,” Ms Blackwood said.

The Mapoon Land and Sea Rangers work covers 183 000 hectares of spectacular country, including 70 km of coastline, and three river systems. Male and female rangers are from a wide age demographic, have distinct roles, and connections to different parts of Mapoon country.

The awards night is an annual celebration to reward work accomplished. It is an event that brings the community together, with pride for the achievment on Country.  The work carried out by rangers is highly valued, and has broad community support,  with the awards ceremony drawing one fifth of Mapoon residents.

Awards presented and recipients: Certificate II in Conservation and Land Management (Graduation), Earl Charger, Jocelyn de Jersey, Edwin Ling, Maggie Peter, Mildred Wilson;  Certificate III in Conservation and Land Management (Statement of attainment): Geraldine Mamoose, Diane Nicholls, Nickolas Woodley, Eli Tabuai.

Graduating Junior Rangers were Lila Jia, Samantha Peter, Zaneeka Ingui, Gegory Hudson, with a special recognition  going to Kymani Morris for her enthusiam and talent.