Kimberley prisoners join fight to save Australia’s endangered rainbow finch

Sam JonesThe Kimberley Echo
A Gouldian finch, or rainbow finch, in the wild.
Camera IconA Gouldian finch, or rainbow finch, in the wild. Credit: Supplied.

Prisoners at the Wyndham Work Camp in the Kimberley have joined the fight to save one of Australia’s most spectacular birds, the rainbow finch.

Also known as the Gouldian, the multi-coloured finches are on Australia’s endangered special list, with fewer than 2500 estimated to be left in the wild.

The population decline is blamed on vegetation changes due to altered fire regimes, cattle grazing and feral predators.

Tens of thousands were trapped for the aviary trade before a ban in the 1980s, with the population struggling to recover ever since.

Wyndham work camp senior officer Adam said staff and prisoners had teamed up with traditional owners on a special project to boost finch numbers.

“Under the guidance of corrective services, the prisoners built 200 nesting boxes for placement in the Gouldian’s natural habitat,” he said.

“We took the men out on country, which is the Dadaru, or Cockburn Rangers, to fins suitable hollow bloodwood and cabbage gum logs, which were taken back to camp.

“Once the nesting boxes were made and attached to the logs we went back out to the bush and the prisoners climbed trees and installed them.”

Adam said the minimum-security prisoners were committed to this important cause, while at the same time learning new skills that could help them gain employment after release.

The finch rescue is just one aspect of a larger flora and fauna reparation program involving work camp prisoners and the traditional owners.

The prisoners are learning to make fences to prevent unauthorised vehicles from entering sensitive flora and fauna areas. They will also make shade huts for bird watching, clear walk trails to waterfalls and propagate native seedlings to revegetate noxious weed areas.

Skills and qualifications attained in the process include traineeships, the potential to join the Ranger Program and a Certificate II in Agriculture Conservation Land Management.

Corrective Services Commissioner Mike Reynolds applauded the program and strong partnership between the work camp staff and prisoners and the traditional owners.

“There are cultural benefits linking prisoner participants back to country and providing meaningful engagement with traditional owners and elders,” Commissioner Reynolds said.

He said the program was a great example of how the department was engaging and developing stronger partnerships with Aboriginal people.

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