Category Archives: Cultural & socio-economic issues & solutions

Holbrook Landcare “Rebirding the Holbrook Landscape” – assessing performance and learning in action

Chris Cumming and  Kylie Durant

Key words: tree dieback, lerps, restoring the agricultural landscape, community involvement, Holbrook Landcare Network

Holbrook producers established Holbrook Landcare Network in 1988.  It was one of the first Landcare groups in Australia, covering initially 171,000 ha of productive agricultural land in the upper reaches of the Murray Darling Basin. The organisation has directly managed grants of more than $6M across more than 85 projects to address NRM and agricultural issues including salinity and erosion control, soil and pasture management the protection of wildlife habitat.

Of the habitat projects, one of the most successful has been the “Rebirding Project”. A recognition of the importance of birds in the landscape occurred in 1994, when there was widespread concern in Holbrook over eucalypt tree dieback and the potential loss of paddock trees in the landscape. Holbrook Landcare commissioned a survey that identified 41% of the trees in the district were showing signs of dieback, and initiated (with support from our own extension staff and Greening Australia) education programs to inform landholders about the causes of dieback, including the link between cycles of lerp and other insect attack exacerbated by the loss of insectivorous birds.

In 1999 the group was successful in gaining funding for the “Rebirding the Holbrook Landscape to mitigate dieback” revegetation program through the Australian Governments Natural Heritage Trust (NHT), with the aim of drawing birds back onto farms and reducing eucalypt tree dieback.

Actions undertaken. Bird surveys were undertaken at 94 study sites in remnant vegetation on hills, flats and along creek lines. Education components succeeded in engaging the community and increased community knowledge and awareness of habitat issues in Holbrook.  The research information was used to recommend specific guidelines for the revegetation component, including ideal patch size (min 6ha), distance to remnant (1km), position in the landscape and habitat values.

The Rebirding on-ground projects (1999 – 2002) achieved 2150ha of remnant and revegetation work and put 475,000 plants back in the landscape across 118 properties – estimated at 80% of the Holbrook landholders.

Outcomes achieved. Measuring success of the program was very important to the community. A partnership with CSIRO Sustainable Ecosystems gave rise to a research project measuring bird use of plantings and remnant vegetation on local farms in 2004 to 2006.  This found that a range of bird species rapidly colonised planted areas and showed evidence of breeding activity, a positive message about the early signs of success of the Rebirding project. Tree health monitoring is ongoing by the community. Current ANU research is showing the positive benefit of the revegetation work in the landscape at the site, farm and landscape scale. The science is therefore indicating that yes, “rebirding” of the Holbrook landscape is underway, and HLN will continue to look to science to help us with the longer term outcomes for birds and tree health, and provide the feedback to us to adaptively manage our programs for the best outcomes.

The lessons and recommendations that come from the research are being applied directly to inform the design of subsequent programs such as the current major biodiversity project being managed by Holbrook Landcare – the “Slopes to Summit Bushlinks Project”.

Contacts: Chris Cumming (Executive Officer) and Kylie Durant,  Holbrook Landcare Network, PO Box 181 Holbrook NSW, Australia.  2644 Tel: +61 2 6036 3121, Email: kyliedurant@holbrooklandcare.org.au.

Paddock tree health field day, Holbrook, 2011.

Paddock tree health field day, Holbrook, 2011.

Before planting habitat blocks at Woomargama station, Holbrook.

Before planting habitat blocks at Woomargama station, Holbrook.

Stands of trees and shrubs established at Woomargama station, Holbrook.

Stands of trees and shrubs established at Woomargama station, Holbrook.

Sustainable Streets Program, Byron Shire Council, NSW

Graeme Williams

Byron Shire Council’s ‘Sustainable Streets’ program aims to foster community-inspired sustainable behaviour change at a neighbourhood level. The program consists of regular neighbourhood gatherings and sustainability education workshops on topics, including: organic gardening; bush-friendly backyards; rainwater harvesting; solar power and energy efficiency; ethical shopping; green cleaning and, cooking with local produce.  .

Activities. In each participating neighbourhood, residents get together for sustainability workshops and build bonds in the neighbourhood, whilst raising points to fund their own local sustainability project. Currently seven streets in neighbourhoods across Byron and Tweed Shire Councils have participated in the Sustainable Streets program, including: Brunswick Heads; Mullumbimby; South Golden Beach; Mullum Creek; Murwillumbah; Cabarita Beach; Uki.

Analyses of the street’s consumption of energy, water and ecological footprint (i.e. the number of planets needed if everyone lived that lifestyle) were made prior to the program and calculated again after 6 months. (Results are shown in Table 1.)

Table 1. Decreases in energy, water and eco footprint of residents in participating Sustainable Streets in the Tweed-Byron area.

Location of Street Energy Water Eco Footprint
South Golden Beach 5.0% decrease 43.0% decrease 5.5% decrease
Uki 13.0% decrease 23.0% decrease 14.5% decrease
Mullumbimby Creek 13.5% decrease 62.0% decrease 21.0% decrease
Cabarita 26.0% decrease 23.0% decrease 20.5% decrease
Brunswick Heads 12.3% decrease 41.5% decrease 15.3% decrease

Results to date.

Energy. Participants have changed to Greenpower, with 8 families having installed their own solar power system. Other changes have been changing consumption patterns including turning off standbys, installing low wattage lights, wearing jumpers instead of turning on heaters, manual operation of electric hot water boosters, adjusting pool pumps minimum use or converting to a natural pool and insulative cooking.

Water. Five families have installed water tanks, others use shower timers, less frequent bigger clothes and dish washing loads.

Food and garden. Participants have converted to efficient composting or worm farms or installed poultry. Others meet more regularly for neighbourhood food and plant swaps and and buy more local food from a nearby organic farmer and at the Farmer’s markets.

Fuel emissions. Changes included reducing air travel, downsizing the family to more fuel efficient models, increased carpooling and pushbike use.

Environment. Nine families cleared their land of invasive weeds

Lessons. A major aspect of the project has been the strengthening of social connections in the neighbourhood, with many participants drawn into the program to ‘get to know their neighbours’. In an increasingly isolated society, the enhancement of social capital has been one of the most significant achievements of the program and platform to develop local sustainability. It is hoped that additional streets will be launched in the future.

Contact Byron Shire Council’s Sustainability Officer on 6626 7305. Also see http://www.byron.nsw.gov.au/sustainable-streets-program to access the ‘Sustainable Streets doco’ which can be borrowed from local libraries.

Sustainable Streets residents (Photo Byron Shire Council)

Brunswick Heads Sustainable Streets participants (Photo Byron Shire Council)

Aboriginal community engagement through the Threatened Grassy Woodlands Project – North-east Victoria

Key words: Indigenous Land Management, Traditional ecological knowledge transfer, stone knapping, weaving, Landcare

Richard Mc Ternan and Mary Munro

The Threatened Grassy Woodlands Project focuses on one of Australia’s most threatened ecosystems. As this ecosystem has significant value to Aboriginal people, the North East Catchment Management Authority (North East CMA) and Aboriginal Elders from the Border and North East Victoria have been working together since 2008 to increase Aboriginal engagement with natural resource management across the region.  Priorities have been to (i) help the establishment of an Aboriginal Landcare group; and (ii) conduct Aboriginal community engagement activities to facilitate knowledge sharing and capacity building between local Aboriginal communities and NRM agencies. Experiences to date show there is a strong interest from Aboriginal people in these activities, and involvement in them has increased pride within the Aboriginal community, and recognition from the wider community.

‘Bidja Bila’ (men of the river) Aboriginal men’s Landcare group.  Formed in 2010 through a Memorandum of Understanding document, the group has the support of a dedicated Aboriginal Landcare Involvement Officer. The aspirations identified by the group are to gather to rekindle traditional stories and practices, and encourage interaction between Elders and younger Aboriginal people, reconnecting with the environment.  A primary goal is to take pressure off the elders, reinforcing and carrying forward their work of guiding the community and government.

Fig 1. ‘Bidja Bila’ (men of the river) Aboriginal men’s Landcare group at first planting day July 2011. (Foreground:Dick Murray, Wayne Edwards and Desi Smith. Background: Ray Williams and Richard Kennedy).

The group’s first project was planting 500 native trees and grasses to enhance forest understories for animals (such as the Sugar Glider) reliant on threatened woodlands. Over time these plants will also be a cultural resource for the community and become a focal point for Aboriginal guided tours through the local cultural centre. Other projects in the planning stage involve further exploration of ways to reengage with grassy box woodland, through increased traditional plant knowledge and cultural fire management.

Workshops on stone tool making and weaving. From 2009, a series of stone tool making and weaving workshops, incorporating knowledge from Elders from six nations, have been conducted for the local Aboriginal community. The workshops utilised natural stone – or plant resources – -derived from the Threatened Grassy Woodlands environment.

Stone tool making workshops. Three Aboriginal stone tool-making (knapping) workshops have enabled Elders to demonstrate techniques gained through a lifetime of experience and shared these with participants. An exhibition was also held at the Albury Library Museum showcasing the array of stone tools created by the Elders during the 2009 workshops. Photos and film footage taken during the workshops by filmmaker, Jacqueline Schulz, and local photographer, Chantelle Bourne were shown at the exhibition. This footage and photos. showed the process Aboriginal people use to manufacture stone tools from the raw material right through to the finished product.

Fig 2. Weaving workshop hosted by Indigo Valley Landcare group and attended by (L to R) Ro Lavers (Indigo Landcare group), Chris Dormer (North-east Weaving Association), Sharon Edwards (Ngiyampaa woman), Cheryl Cameron (Wiradjuri woman) and Jackie Tansy (weaving facilitator). (Photo courtesy of The Border Mail.)

Weaving workshop and film. A number of weaving artists demonstrated traditional Aboriginal weaving techniques and showcased their creations at a weaving workshop initiated by Indigo Valley Landcare group and held at the Albury Wodonga Aboriginal Health Service in 2011.  Also shown was the film, “Sneaking a stitch”, made by Jacqui Schulz, which conveyed many elements of traditional weaving and pointed out the need to conserve and manage declining plant species used as a weaving resource. This film proved an effective way of communicating important messages about culture and caring for the environment between women and young girls. Further workshops on other topics have been conducted and are planned for the future.

Funding acknowledgement: We acknowledge support from the Australian Government’s ‘Caring for our Country’ initiative, together with contributions from the North East, Goulburn Broken and Murray CMAs, the Victorian State Departments of Sustainability & Environment and Primary Industries, Trust for Nature, Nature Conservation Trust and the Australian National University.

Contact: Richard Mc Ternan, Aboriginal Liaison Officer, North East CMA, PO Box 616, Wodonga VIC 3689 Australia. Tel:+61 2 60 249 109; Mobile: 0428 683 878. Email: richard.mcternan@necma.vic.gov.au

Basketweaving for ecosystem conservation – Coorong, South Australia

Ellen Trevorrow, Tom Trevorrow and Joan Gibbs

Our concerns for the future supply of our basketweaving rushes (Cyperus spp.) are at the heart of our teaching at Camp Coorong for Race Relations Cultural Education.  The rushes are continually being depleted by stock grazing, mowing, weed sprays and neglect of our waterways and Wetlands of International Significance. The Murray River, Lakes and Coorong were suffering and drying from the 8-year drought and from 200 years of mismanagement of our waterways.  We had turned to using recycled fibres such as string, garden twine and wire. In response to this need for materials from the land, we created an artistic working group, Ngarrindjeri Eco-Art Coop (NEAC),  to embrace the principle of using local materials that would not harm the Earth. Recycling discarded items into art gives new meaning and value to materials that could become an environmental hazard.

Fig. 1. Ellen Trevorrow and NEAC teacher, Jelina Haines, with woven trousers from recycled string.

In the last two years several cultural, spiritual ceremonies were held to bring back the water to the River and the Coorong estuary, to help our totems (plant and animal ngatjis).  In 2009, we were graced by a visit with Grandmother Agnes Pilgrim, who came to Camp Coorong to give a water blessing to bring back the healing waters to the land. Many community members danced and sang to the waters and apologised to the ngatjis for their neglect.  In 2010, the first Ringbalin ceremony was conducted at significant places along the length of the Murray Basin and Rivers, to bring back the health of the river system.  The Talkindjeri Dancers, led by the Ngarrindjeri elder, Major Sumner, travelled for two weeks along the river, stopping at towns along the way to meet with people who joined in the dancing and ceremony on the River. At the end of the river, as Talkindjeri danced on Brown’s Beach at Lake Albert near Meningie, the rains began and the drought was broken.  The rushes returned and the Murray River soon flowed again to the Southern Ocean.

Fig. 2. Tom and Ellen Trevorrow, Ngarrindjeri leaders at Camp Coorong for Race Relations and Cultural Education.

Although the basketweaving plants are growing once again, we are still conscious of the care and use of the weaving rushes. We always balance our need to collect rushes against the supply and reproduction of healthy plants and healthy country. Our ngatjis, the local plants and animals, tell us how we are going, and what we should do to keep the Coorong alive.  Now the Working on Country crews are growing the rushes and planting them out in country, hoping to sustain the future of basketweaving and culture.  Ngarrindjeri people have been relentless about asking the Murray Darling Basin Commission to ensure cultural flows are considered as part of critical human needs.  We also ask that cultural flows reach all parts of the River to sustain our ngatjis, the native plants and the fish stocks. We believe that when our ngatjis die, we die.

Contact: Ellen and Tom Trevorrow, Camp Coorong, Box 126, Meningie, SA 5264, Australia. Tel: +61-8-8575-1557; Fax: +61-8-8575-1448; and Joan Gibbs, University of SA, Mawson Lakes, SA 5095, Australia. Tel: +61-8-8302-5164.

Returning community back to the Land – Jali LALC links into Hotspots program

Key words: Indigenous land management, ecological burning, threatened species, Indigenous Protected Area

Lana Andrews

Jali landholders, from near Wardell in north coast NSW, have been involved with a unique opportunity to get back in touch with country – through the Hotspots Program.

Jali Local Aboriginal Land Council is the largest landowner in the Ballina Shire.  Its holdings include a proposed Indigenous Protected Area (IPA) of some 1,0000 ha of native vegetation; an area of high conservation value immediately adjacent to a number of residential areas of the community, including Cabbage Tree Island in the Richmond River.

Burns were previously purposely lit in the area from stolen cars and cigarette butts, threatening the ongoing conservation of the area’s biodiversity, including the threatened Long-nosed Potoroo (Potorous tridactylus) .

Events. Workshop. The Hotspots team coordinated 2 workshop events to consolidate known information of the property and to facilitate the community to meet with the local land managers including the Rural Fire Service and National Parks & Wildlife Service.

Fire management strategy. As a result, the Hotspots team helped the community to develop a Geographical Information System (GIS) based fire management strategy for the site. This included spatial maps of the vegetation types, fire history, fire thresholds and fire management zones.

Bush Fire Fighter Training. Working with the RFS, Hotspots helped to facilitate practical on-ground training in fire operations for the community. This training, specifically tailored to the members of the community who had been involved in the Environmental Training and Employment Inc (Envite NSW) program, included an introduction to fire fighting techniques and equipment, bush fire behaviour and prescribed burning.

Prescribed Burn.  In August 2010 the NSW Rural Fire Service and Jali Local Aboriginal Land Council conducted a joint 2.5 hectare burn on their lands for the protection of biodiversity and cultural values whilst also assisting to address protection of life and property. The vegetation of the burn site was long unburnt heath with fuel ranging from 10-17 tonnes/hectare. The controlled burn facilitated cooperative planning and implementation and developed the relationship between the Jali Local Aboriginal Land Council and the NSW Rural Fire Service.

Outcomes.  Hotspots provided an even ground, where the Indigenous community could benefit from the program, learning through the knowledge of experts in fire management and ecology – and in return, fire managers and ecologists could gain experience from those who have lived on the land for generations.

The Jali on-ground crew have been working closely with the Wetland Care Partnership group and have conducted monitoring on Potoroo sites in the area. Instead of continuing to be subject to random burns started by arsonists, the gates have been put up, and the Jali crew can safely conduct their own mosaic burns, with the intent of providing good regeneration as habitat for the local Potoroos.

Engagement with this program is a way of returning the community back to the land, providing training programs and education to allow the community to develop the skills and knowledge so they can be in the driver’s seat for managing their own land and setting their own direction.

Contact: Lana Andrews (Coordinator Hotspots Programme), NSW Rural Fire Service NSW Rural Fire Service, 15 Carter Street Lidcombe NSW 2141 Australia, Tel: +61 2 8741 5438, Mobile: 0408 109 446, Email: hotspots@rfs.nsw.gov.au. See www.hotspotsfireproject.org.au

Threats to Native Bees (Sugarbag) Project – one of the pathways of the Traditional Knowledge Revival Pathways Kuku Thaypan Fire Management Program

Key words: Traditional ecological knowledge, native stingless bees, Trigonia sp., Indigenous training, fire management

The project and its aims: From February to April 2010 the Kuku Thaypan Fire Management Research Project through the Elders’ Traditional Knowledge Revival Pathways (TKRP) in Cape York, North Queensland – extended their Indigenous led action research methodology to begin implementation of the “Threats to Native Bees (Sugarbag)” project.

One aim of this project was to design a methodology for mapping bee nesting sites (“sugarbag”) using both Traditional and non-traditional knowledge systems. Another was to assess the potential usefulness of stingless bees Trigonia sp as an indicator of biodiversity health in Woodlands.

Outputs of the action research project included two short trailers, a short case study film and a CD Rom Powerpoint Presentation outlining the project.

Shared elements of Traditional Ecological Knowledge (TEK) )and western science on sugarbag management issues affecting stingless bees included inter-relationships with flowering events and fire timing, frequency and intensity.

The final short film acts to communicate the project as a case study presenting key elements of the relationship between stingless bees, sugarbag, people and fire, while practically demonstrating land management from a grassroots community perspective.

The CD Rom Powerpoint presentation highlights key elements of the project methodology, method, challenges, achievements and findings and begins to describe the classification system as recorded by TEK and western science through the project.

Lessons learned. The potency of the training tools is that they enhance on-country training methods as they re-enforce the experience and recollection of country as close as possible to actually being there, triggering reliving of the knowledge exchange that encompasses deeper learning.

The Sugarbag project has directly assisted communities by demonstrating a structure where transfer in Traditional Knowledge occurs through culturally appropriate means. Undertaking TEK transfer in the field, while practically demonstrating knowledge through action research case studies and training in multi-media tools, provides a diverse number of outcomes beneficial to the environment and community well-being. This methodology directly empowers communities because they are implementing their own projects and control how information is shared across Australia and abroad.

Acknowledgements. Partners to the Sugarbag research project were Mulong Pty, Ltd, The Importance of Campfires Research Project, Caring for Our Country Open Grants, James Cook University Australian Tropical Forest Institute Centre for Sustainable Indigenous Communities, Charles Darwin University.

Contact: Peta-Marie Standley, Program manager, Cape York Natural Resource Management Ltd, CSIRO Atherton. PO Box 907, Atherton Q 4883, Australia. Tel: 0418 198 244, Email: pstandley@capeyorknrm.com.au

Wimmera CMA Catchment Tender model – evaluation after 5 years demonstrates significant improvements in efficiency and value for money

Key words: ecological sustainability, incentives, market-based instruments, salinity

Robert Moir

Wimmera Catchment Management Authority (WCMA) helps manage natural resources across 2800 square kilometres of land in western Victoria. In 2005, the WCMA teamed up with environmental economic researchers from CSIRO to design and implement an innovative market-driven model to address salinity problems in key parts of the catchment. This has resulted in a $4.6 million investment in environmental projects on farms in the past six years, in turn, delivering a dramatic increase in on-ground works such as fencing, weed and pest animal control, revegetation and protecting waterways compared with traditional incentive programs of the previous decade.

Through this initial Catchment Tender model, the CMA invited farmers to submit tender proposals and be paid for establishing and maintaining vegetation on their farms. The model, an alternative to grants, targeted specific farms where revegetation work would help reduce salinity problems across the catchment. The computer-based model assessed the costs and benefits of the tenders and selected the ones which offered the best value for money of terms of salinity benefits per dollar of public funds invested.

Participation in this first round of Catchment Tender far exceeded expectations, with more than $730,000 invested into salinity management across 762 hectares of land in just 10 months. This is the equivalent of at least the previous five to six years of revegetation achievements through the CMA’s previous grants scheme. There have been efficiency gains of up to 160% in delivery, and 69% of the project’s total budget has been paid to landholders; this includes development costs dating back to 2002. Based on an evaluation done with the CSIRO we found that by comparison, traditional incentive projects would on average require a budget 60% higher than Catchment Tender to generate the same outcome. Because of this result, the CMA extended this market-based approach to other programs including biodiversity conservation and protecting wetlands and riparian corridors along waterways, and since the first round in 2005, Wimmera CMA has helped invest $4.6 million across the region.

The CMA has completed 12 tender programs including River Tender, Habitat Tender and Buloke Tender. These programs help protect our region’s waterways, wetlands, plants and animals. Six years down the track, the CMA and the CSIRO are now evaluating these market-driven programs as well as other natural resource management investment programs such as grants and Landcare group support.

Contact: Robert Moir, Program Manager- Catchment Operations, Wimmera Catchment Management Authority, PO Box 479, Horsham, 3401, Tel: +61 (03) 5382 1544 or email wca@wcma.vic.gov.au.