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Legacy of firsts for trailblazing Torres Strait ranger

The early days – Edna Nai is among TSRA’s longest-serving rangers
Thriving career – TSRA Ranger Edna Nai carries out revegetation works

Edna Nai’s journey to become a Torres Strait Regional Authority (TSRA) land and sea ranger has been shaped by a series of firsts – from her first time on a big plane, to joining the first cohort of female rangers in the region.

In the early 90s, Mrs Nai left her community of Masig – a remote island home to about 300 people – to pursue a university education.

The move to Cairns and then Adelaide was a culture and climate shock.

“South Australia was far from the Torres Strait – and cold,” Mrs Nai said.

“I couldn’t get used to the weather, I was weighed down with double clothes every day.”

She started an Advanced Certificate in Community Development, but like many women back then, family commitments signalled the end of her studies.

The family stayed in Adelaide so her husband could finish his university degree and following his graduation, decided it was time to move back to Masig.

Mrs Nai returned home with no degree or job, but a growing family and heart filled with hope.

While on the Community Development Employment Projects (CDEP) scheme as a job seeker, she encountered rangers at the small local nursery.

She loved the outdoors and building on traditional ways of gardening and conservation passed on from her mother and aka (grandmother).

When the TSRA advertised for local rangers, her late husband, Francis, encouraged her to apply.

“We heard about the jobs and I thought to myself, oh no I don’t see myself there. It’s for boys, it’s a male thing,” she said.

“We applied together, but I didn’t expect to get the job as a female. Men were seen as the providers for finance and family.

“I was worried about what people would say and culturally too.

“My husband said, ‘why don’t you just give it a go’. We both ended up getting jobs as rangers.

“I was so happy to get the job but was thinking honestly, what would people say about a woman ranger?”

A decade later, Mrs Nai is one of TSRA’s longest-serving rangers and has many supporters.

Last month (27 February), she celebrated 10 years as a TSRA ranger dedicated to preserving and protecting land and sea.

“I look at how far I’ve come and I can’t believe it,” she said.

Her advice to girls and women is to be brave and seize opportunities.

“I would say, take the challenge and just go for it if there’s an opportunity to do something for your community,” she said.

“Community members come up to us and say how great it is to see female rangers.”

Mrs Nai is among the region’s first female rangers and her legacy means she won’t be the last.

“At first there were only three female rangers in the region, two of us on Masig and one on Warraber,” she said.

“There’s lots more now.”

TSRA is celebrating inspiring local women as part of Queensland Women’s Week from 5-13 March 2022, including International Women’s Day on Tuesday 8 March.

This year’s theme is #BreakTheBias and supported by the United Nations’ call to action, Changing Climates: Equality today for a sustainable tomorrow.

Did you know?

In 2021, TSRA had a total of 151 employees.

Women made up more than half (58 per cent) of the TSRA workforce and the majority of the workforce (78 per cent) are Torres Strait Islander and/or Aboriginal.

Through TSRA’s women’s leadership programme, 48 women have completed skills and capacity training since 2014.

Learn more about the TSRA at www.tsra.gov.au

Media contact: media@tsra.gov.au

Torres Strait Islanders and Aboriginal people are advised this website may contain names, images and recordings of people who have passed.