The Queensland Indigenous Women Rangers Network has been awarded a £1m ($1.8m) Earthshot prize for its work on protecting the Great Barrier Reef.
The network was awarded the Revive Our Oceans category of the prizes, which was launched by Prince William and David Attenborough in 2020.
The initiative is described by the Earthshot prize as “an inspiring women led program” that combines 60,000 years of First Nations knowledge with digital technologies to protect land and sea.
Only an estimated 20% of Indigenous rangers in Queensland are women. The QIWRN, established in 2018, has trained more than 60 women, many of whom have subsequently found work as rangers or in conservation in Queensland or elsewhere.
The Earthshot prize describes the program as “vital”.
“The data they have collected has given us critical insight into one of the most important ecosystems on the planet. As custodians of the land, the rangers have also protected sites of great cultural and spiritual significance.
“With greater support, Indigenous women rangers could span the planet, helping to repair ecosystems from Hawaii to Nepal and Tanzania.”
Sign up for Guardian Australia’s free morning and afternoon email newsletters for your daily news roundup
The network’s managing director, Larissa Hale, said in a statement: “This place has always been our home, but today we risk losing it and the unique culture that has existed here for millennia. Our Women Rangers Network exists to protect our home and continue our traditions.
“We have made big first steps, but we have a long way still to go. Thank you to the Earthshot prize, for supporting us.”
The council that selects its prize winners includes Queen Rania Al Abdullah of Jordan and Cate Blanchett, among others.
The US ambassador to Australia, Caroline Kennedy, was at present at the awards ceremony and told the ABC she was “so excited” and “hoping they would win”.
“I hope it will raise awareness around the world really for the importance of the oceans and the work that we can all do to preserve and protect them – and draw on traditional knowledge to do that,” Kennedy said.
“I really hope to visit them when I return to Australia.”