Former ranger makes history as first Indigenous director of Kakadu, Uluru and Commonwealth parks

an aboriginal man wearing a cowboy hat lunges in bushland and points with a finger

Ronald ‘Ricky’ Archer has been announced as the new director of National Parks, including Kakadu and Uluru.

By Matt Garrick 23/11/23

Click here to view the original story on the ABC website

Key points:

  • Ronald Archer has a long history working in land and sea management
  • He’ll be the first Indigenous person to hold the role
  • His appointment follows years of tensions between traditional owners in Kakadu and park directors

A former ranger from north Queensland has created history, becoming the first Indigenous man to lead conservation efforts and the recovery of some of Australia’s most prized national parks.

Djungan man Ronald ‘Ricky’ Archer has been named as the new director of National Parks.

He will take the helm of Commonwealth parks across Australia, including Kakadu and Uluru-Kata Tjuta in the NT, which have been hit hard in recent years by issues like falling tourism, ageing infrastructure and feral animals.

Mr Archer comes from a long background of conservation and land and sea management.

He said in a statement he was looking forward to caring for “some of our most stunning and valuable natural and cultural assets” and “strengthening the role of traditional owners” to care for the parks.

a bald man with facial hair wearing a suit in front of palm fronds

Mr Archer has extensive experience in land management.

“We have an amazing opportunity to make greater impact in the ways we manage our natural and cultural resources,” Mr Archer said.

Environment Minister Tanya Plibersek said she was “proud to appoint the first Aboriginal director of National Parks”.

“I know he will work to build and improve relationships between First Nations peoples, management, and the community,” Ms Plibersek said.

A waterfall running down steep rockfaces and into a pool, on a  sunny day.

Motor Car Falls is a popular tourist site in Kakadu National Park.

Appointment follows years of strained relations

Mr Archer’s appointment comes off the back of a period of particularly frayed relationships between Commonwealth agency Parks Australia and the traditional owners of Kakadu National Park.

Kakadu’s traditional owners have launched High Court action against the agency, over illegal construction works carried out near a sacred site near popular tourism site Gunlom Falls.

Prior to this, Kakadu’s board of management had called for the sacking of a previous director of National Parks, James Findlay, over a lack of consultation with traditional owners.

Mr Findlay resigned shortly after.

More recently, Kakadu has seen an explosion of feral animal populations, including wild pigs, buffalo and horses, which tourism operators and rangers have said have caused untold damage to the park.

Mr Archer formally begins in the role on November 24.

As well as Kakadu and Uluru-Kata Tjuta, he’ll also be responsible for Booderee in the Jervis Bay Territory and the Australian National Botanic Gardens in Canberra, along with numerous marine parks.