Building a stronger island future – Christmas Island, Student Rangers and Crab Cadets!
Located 1500 km from the Australian mainland, Christmas Island is a remarkable ecotourism destination. This tiny dot of land in the Indian Ocean boasts tropical rainforests, freshwater wetlands, spectacular sea cliffs and diverse wildlife both above and below the water. The Christmas Island National Park protects 64% of Christmas Island’s land area and extends 50 metres offshore.
But Christmas Island also has a unique cultural history and currently supports a diverse community of around 2000 residents. Historic mining of phosphate on the island brought workers here from all over the world with the most common ancestries reported by current residents being Chinese, Australian, Malay, English and Irish. While on the island, you might hear people conversing in Mandarin, Malay, Cantonese, Min Nan, Tagalog, English and a variety of other languages.
In 2018, a proposed expansion to phosphate mining operations was refused by the Australian Government due to environmental concerns. With the recognition that mining on the Island will come to an end, community leaders are turning to address the uncertain future, knowing that the Island’s outstanding natural environment and unique community is what sets it apart. They know the island’s future will lie in a more diversified economy – one in which tourism plays a major part.
The National Parks Conservation Trust (the Parks Trust) is playing its part to strengthen the regional community of Christmas Island and ensure its younger residents have the skills to help build that future – through the Christmas Island Student Ranger Program.
The Parks Trust is partnering with Parks Australia, who manage the Christmas Island National Park, Christmas Island District High School, the Foundation for Rural and Regional Renewal, Phosphate Resources Limited (who are focused on mine rehabilitation) and John T Reid Charitable Trusts, to realise this important program.
Jointly delivered by the School and the National Park, the program is designed to provide the younger members of the island community with a lasting bond to their environment and employment ready skills uniquely tailored to local opportunities.
It will support school-wide Crab Cadets (younger students) and Student Rangers (older students) to undertake outdoor, nature-based learning, with opportunities for older students to participate in ranger and tour guide activities, park-based programs or park internships. In addition to hands-on learning, older students will be able to complete formal units that count towards the WA Certificate of Education (like Bush Rangers WA).
The long-term success of this program will be measured in young residents who are proud and knowledgeable about their island’s natural and cultural values; have a passion for learning and contributing to their community; who can be part of creating and supporting local employment pathways in eco-tourism and conservation and who can nurture strong relationships that strengthened the Christmas Island community as it works together to build a more resilient economy.
Photo Credit: Bradley Desmond