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Derek Walker grew up in Raukkan,

South Australia, a Ngarrindjeri boy

firmly connected to culture. His

father took him and his siblings on

country ‘every chance he could’, to

hunt, learn and understand



the Ngarrindjeri concept of land

and all living things associated

with it. Derek left his community

to study agriculture, but after

graduating was drawn back home.

When you’re connected to

country, it never leaves you.

In 2004, Derek and his son started

Ngopamuldi Aboriginal Corporation,

aligned with the Ngarrindjeri Nation

(see Section 4.3) and motivated by

the need to create economically

viable opportunities for Ngarrindjeri

people to sustainably manage their

own country.

There just wasn’t a link

between land care and

people—i.e. jobs.

Working on Country was

Ngopamuldi’s first land care

program, employing and

training rangers to rehabilitate

Derek Walker, Ngopamuldi Aboriginal

Corporation—jobs for a nation


Derek Walker.

Photo: Sara Coen, 40 Stories

damaged native environments,

use traditional cultural land

management practices and protect

culturally sensitive sites. Of the

15 full-time Working on Country

employees, who are Ngarrindjeri

men and women of various ages,

each has achieved a vocational

education and training qualification

since their employment began: a

diploma or a Certificate III or IV.

Ngopamuldi delivers an Aboriginal

Learning on Country program for

community members in South

Australia to gain TAFE-accredited

training in land and conservation

management practices. It also

runs awareness sessions and

paid apprenticeships for school

students in Raukkan.

Any opportunity to work

on country, at home,

is significant. From a

Ngarrindjeri perspective,

being connected to a

particular place is incredibly

important. We have a word

for land, that’s


; it’s

everything—trees, plants,

animals, and connectedness

between us and all the

elements. Doing work that

rehabilitates and remediates

our country is gold for us.

There’s a lot of competing

noise for young people, so

what we want to do is present

to them, ‘This is who we

are, and who you are, and

this is the opportunity to

be involved in this’. Lots of

people who’ve come and got

involved have had a tough

start in life, and this has

been an opportunity to be

consistent, get some work,

improve their lot, and catch

the vision of what it is to be

involved in the work we do—

not just land management

but care of country, and

connection to the cultural

value attached to that.

Ngopamuldi also has around

30 Indigenous employees working

as carpenters, electricians, and

technicians—including on the

National Broadband Network

rollout by infrastructure company

Fulton Hogan, as part of a Kungun

Ngarrindjeri Yunnan (‘Listening

to Ngarrindjeri People Talking’)

Agreement negotiated with the

Ngarrindjeri Nation

. 28

The rangers and community are

proud that the land care work is

making a difference—in the first