Improving communications for Rangers and Homelands in the Crocodile Islands
Over the last few years, the Rangers have been working towards solving the problem of poor communications in remote areas, by installing their own VHF network.
Communication has always been difficult in the remote Crocodile Islands, particularly for the Rangers who work out of town areas, on remote islands and out at sea. In fact, the Rangers only need to drive 5km west of Milingimbi town and they lose mobile reception.
Since they were established, the Rangers have been working on ways of improving their communications for increased efficiency and safety. For their large vessels, the Rangers have installed satellite tracking devices, otherwise they can take a portable SPOT satellite tracking device, so the Ranger base can monitor their positions. These devices are extremely useful, but do not allow any form of ‘two way’ communication. They also carry satellite phones for emergency use.
A few years ago, the Rangers helped MOPRA decommission an old water tower, and then erect a VHF repeater tower on the water tank stand. This enabled the Rangers to be able to carry handheld radios, and install them in vehicles, so they can be in constant communication with each other around Milingimbi Island.
More recently, with funding support from the Australian Government under the Stronger Communities Programme, the Rangers added a solar-powered remote VHF repeater on Murrungga Island. This VHF repeater is particularly valuable during the wet season when satellite coverage is reduced, assisting with regular work activities as well as sea rescues, emergency communications with remote homelands residents, cyclone preparation and much more.
As a result of these initiatives, our remote communications have massively improved. The Rangers are now able to communicate with VHF radios directly between the Murrungga Island Homeland and Milingimbi island Ranger base – around 25km away. The radios have even been used by Milingimbi community during cyclone preparation and clean up activities, when there were no other communications available on the island.