Perseverance pays off for hearing-impaired ranger

Published: October 5, 2023

An indigenous DBCA Ranger who suffers from a serious hearing impediment has been able to realise his dream of working on fire duties in WA’s Goldfields region, thanks to a lot of hard work … and no little ingenuity.

James Tucker could not hear out of both ears from birth but learnt to use sign language and lip read as a child.

After graduating high school, his repeated applications to become a ranger were eventually rewarded when he was given a casual position.

The Goldfields Parks and Wildlife Service team has now devised a communication system, involving signals, to help James when he is working in the field.

Chris Curtis, Operations Officer, Fire Management at DBCA, said when Mr Tucker is out at a fire with them, he has his own radio that vibrates when someone is contacting him, and they also have a special card system.

“The green card basically means pack up, we finished mopping up this log … we’re finished doing whatever we were doing here,” said Mr Curtis. “The red card is an emergency, if we’re about to be overrun, for instance, by fire … the red card comes up and he knows to drop whatever he’s doing, leave it where it is and head back to the truck instantly.”

Peter Batt, Joint management coordinator at DBCA, said Mr Tucker has a great work ethic and takes a lot of pride in what he does.

“I’ve heard it mentioned a number of times that he’s just so patient. You know, he understands that his communication is not great but he perseveres,” Mr Batt said. “He doesn’t get frustrated and he’ll try explaining again or, eventually, he’ll write it down if he needs to.”

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I understand that WA was the first State to employ Aboriginal Rangers specifically for their traditional seasonal burning knowledge, when weather conditions are right and wind direction favourable patches are burnt every few years that burn towards and are extinguished when the fire reaches the previously burnt patch. This technique results in cooler fires providing more time for wildlife to escape and not enough heat and flames to completely burn the area out with loss of trees resulting.

The NT Government has also adopted the WA system, areas like Kakadu and Arnhem Land.


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