Category Archives: Indigenous land & sea management

Motuora Restoration Project, New Zealand

Key Words: Ecological restoration, reintroductions, island restoration, community engagement, Motuora Restoration Society

Motuora Restoration Society (http://motuora.org.nz) is recognised by the New Zealand Department of Conservation as the lead community agency for the restoration of Motuora, an 80 ha island in the Hauraki Gulf, New Zealand.  Since 2003 the Society has taken responsibility for the Island’s day-to-day management as well as developing and implementing the Island’s long term restoration strategy. Our aspiration is summed up in our  statement “It is our dream that future generations will enjoy a forest alive with native birds, reptiles and insects”.

Figure 1 – Aerial view of the Island before planting began. Area to bottom left has been sprayed in preparation for planting (Photo from cover of 2007 Motuora Native Species Restoration Plan).

Figure 1 – Aerial view of the Island before planting began. Area to bottom left has been sprayed in preparation for planting (Photo from cover of 2007 Motuora Native Species Restoration Plan).

 Figure 2 – Aerial view of the Island after completion of the pioneer planting. (Photo by Toby Shanley)


Figure 2 – Aerial view of the Island after completion of the pioneer planting. (Photo by Toby Shanley)

Background. Motuora is located on the east coast of New Zealand’s North Island near Auckland City. Motuora would once have been tree-covered and have hosted a wide range of native plants, invertebrates, reptiles and birds, particularly burrow-nesting seabirds. It was visited by early Polynesian settlers, later Māori, who would have initially camped, but later lived more permanently on the Island raising crops and harvesting fish, shellfish and presumably seabird eggs, chicks and adults. European settlers later occupied the Island, burning off most of the bush to encourage growth of grasses for their grazing livestock.

Towards the end of the farming period in the 1980s most of the Island’s native flora and fauna were gone. Interestingly however, there were never breeding populations of introduced mammalian pests on the Island so the remnant ecosystem had not been impacted by mice, rats, mustelids, hedgehogs, possums, goats, pigs or deer.

From about 1987 onwards both Government and members of the public began to take an interest in the Island and to promote the idea of adopting it as a predator-free bird habitat. Discussions continued over the next few years and by 1992 a sub-committee of the mid-North Royal Forest and Bird Protection Society had been formed and, in partnership with the Department of Conservation, drew up the first ‘strategy plan’ for the Island. Work parties began seed collecting, trial tree planting, weeding and fencing upgrades. By 1995 it had become apparent that the project could best proceed by way of an independent group dedicated to the task and the Motuora Restoration Society was formed.

The work on Motuora was designed to be a true restoration project combining firm ideas about the model ecosystem desired and a ‘bottom-up’ approach (vegetation-invertebrates-reptiles-birds) timing planting and introductions in a logical sequence. The historical presence of species on Motuora was inferred from comparisons with other less modified islands off the north east of the North Island, and particularly those from within the Rodney and Inner Gulf Ecological Districts, and using paleological information collected from the adjacent mainland.  Motuora Restoration Society has resisted the temptation to add iconic attractive species not originally present on the Island which might have raised the profile of the project.

Works carried out. The Society and its volunteers have contributed many thousands of hours to the restoration of the Island since 1995, raising and planting more than 300,000 native seedlings. This was particularly challenging with the logistics of working on an island without a regular ferry service or wharf. The project also included seabird and other species translocations, monitoring, weeding and track maintenance as well as fundraising.

The framework adopted began with reforestation so that appropriate habitat could be reinstated. A nursery was set up and seeds were collected from the Island, from nearby islands and, when necessary, from the mainland. With the exception of some areas of higher ground providing panoramic views from the Island, the land area was prepared (by weed-killing rampant kikuyu grass) and planted with hardy, wind and salt tolerant tree species. Once the trees were established, the canopy closed and sufficient shelter available, less hardy species and those requiring lower light levels were planted among the pioneers.  Today the planting of 400,000 trees of pioneer species is all but complete; and the raising and planting of ‘canopy’ and less hardy species continues.

In terms of fauna, invertebrate populations were surveyed and have been monitored as the forest has matured. One species, Wētāpunga (Deinacrida heteracantha) has been introduced.   Four reptiles have been introduced: Shore Skink (Oligosoma smithi), Duvaucel’s Gecko (Hoplodactylus duvaucelii),  Raukawa Gecko (Woodworthia maculata) and Pacific Gecko (Dactylocnemis pacificus).  One small land bird – Whitehead (Mohoua albicilla) has been translocated with 40 individuals moved to the Island.  Four seabird species have been attracted or translocated to the Island including the Common Diving Petrel (Pelecanoides urinatrix), and Pycroft’s Petrel (Pterodroma pycrofti).

Results. The project has restored Motuora from a pastoral farm (dominated by introduced grasses, weeds and only a small remnant fringe of naturally regenerating native forest) to a functioning native ecosystem, predominantly covered in early succession native forest with an intact canopy.

Initially the population of invertebrates was dominated by grassland species but the range and population size of forest dwellers has now much improved and the invertebrate fauna is now rich and plentiful (although rarer and endangered species are still to be added).  An initial suite of populations of flightless invertebrates remain depauperate.  Whitehead, an insectivorous bird species, has flourished with a current population of several hundred. At this early stage in the introduction of native fauna it is possible to report successful breeding and, for the most part, sufficient survival of initial colonisers of the species introduced to suggest that new populations will be established.  Sound attraction systems have led to initial breeding of Fluttering Shearwater (Puffinus gavia) and Australasian Gannet (Morus serrator).

Partnerships. Management of the Island is shared with the Department of Conservation (DOC) who administer the site on behalf of the Crown. DOC has legal commitments to engage with and act on behalf of the general public and particularly with iwi (Māori) who have generally expressed strong support for the restoration project and are expected to have co-management rights over the Island in the future.

Over the years the combined efforts of DOC staff, University researchers, the committee, thousands of volunteers and a host of donors and sponsors have worked hard to bring the Island to its present state.

Future directions. A sustained effort will continue to be required each year on biosecurity and weeding programmes. It will be many more decades before the forest matures and seabird and reptile populations reach capacity levels and a substantial workload is anticipated in managing and monitoring the emerging ecosystem for many years to come.

Acknowledgements: The success of the project is reinforced by the fact that the Society has maintained a close collaboration with a range of scientists and have inspired the active support and engagement of so many volunteers.  We thank all our inspiring volunteers and the following participating academics and researchers who have contributed to the project over the past ten years: Plants: Shelley Heiss Dunlop, Helen Lindsay (contractor). Reptiles: Marleen Baling (Massey University), Dylan van Winkel (consultant), Su Sinclair (Auckland Council), Manuela Barry (Massey University). Invertebrates: Chris Green (DOC), Robin Gardner-Gee (Auckland University), Jacqueline Beggs (Auckland University), Stephen Wallace (Auckland University). Birds: Robin Gardner-Gee (Auckland University), Jacqueline Beggs (Auckland University), Kevin Parker (Massey University), Richard Griffiths (DOC), Graeme Taylor (DOC), Helen Gummer (DOC contractor). The restoration project has been supported financially though grant aid received from a wide range of funders.

Contact: Secretary, Motuora Restoration Society, Email: secretary@motuora.org.nz; www: http://motuora.org.nz/

Nowanup: Healing country, healing people

Keith Bradby, Eugene Eades, Justin Jonson, Barry Heydenrych.

Key words: Noongar, Gondwana Link, cultural restoration, ecological restoration, design

Introduction. Greening Australia’s 754 ha Nowanup property was one of the first purchased with donor funds to help achieve the Gondwana Link programme’s goal of reconnecting native habitats across south-western Australia (Fig 1). The ecological work of Gondwana Link is underpinned by the involvement of people living within the region’s landscapes.

Nowanup (Fig 2) is a visually compelling place, with rising breakaway mesas, broad sweeping plains, and views south down the Corackerup valley and south west to the Stirling Range. Its remaining native vegetation systems are dominated by mallee shrublands, mallet and moort woodlands and banksia heathlands. It contains large populations of the locally endemic eucalypts Corackerup Moort (Eucalyptus vesiculosa) and Corackerup Mallet (E. melanophitra) and it is expected that additional rare flora species will be found. It also supports populations of a range of threatened fauna species including Malleefowl (Leipoa ocellata), Western Whipbird (Psophodes nigrogularis), Shy Groundwren (Hylacola cauta whitlocki), Crested Bellbird (Oreoica gutturalis gutturalis) and Black-gloved wallaby (Macropus irma). The original native vegetation remains in the upper section of the property (Fig 3), though much of this area has been cleared and burnt for farming, but never farmed. The farmland areas are now largely replanted.

Fig 1 Fitz-Stirling Corridor

Fig. 1. Nowanup is part of the broader Gondwana Link Program

Fig 2. Nowanup rock features

Fig. 2. Nowanup has visually compelling rock features and expansive landscapes.

Cultural significance. The groups involved in Gondwana Link support a range of social and cultural activities involving donors, farmers, government agencies, research bodies, industry groups and various landcare and natural resource management groups. Primary among these are the Aboriginal People, which for Nowanup is the local Noongar community.

Many Noongar elders knew the area well before it was cleared for farming, and speak of its cultural significance. Cultural mapping on the property has underlined that significance by locating a number of cultural sites and concentrations of artefacts. After purchase in 2004 the property was made available to the Noongar community, to support their aspirations, and Noongar leader Eugene Eades resides on Nowanup. Initially employed by Greening Australia as an Indigenous Engagement Officer, and now running camps and events at Nowanup as a Noongar led program, Eugene liaises with educational, corrections and welfare institutions and agencies to coordinate a range of educational and rehabilitation programmes. Eugene has also managed, with a team of young Noongar men, construction of a ‘Meeting Place’ that has assumed considerable significance for the local Noongar community (Fig 4).

Located in the heart of the Fitz-Stirling section of Gondwana Link, with its striking scenic qualities, a powerful sense of place, basic building infrastructure, cultural ‘Meeting Place’, and resident Noongar manager, Nowanup has become the focus for educational and cultural activities and programmes in the Fitz-Stirling, including an increasing level of Noongar involvement in the restoration plantings. These have included planting seedlings during community days and the expert planting of thousands of seedlings by four Noongar boys undertaking an eight week justice diversion program under Eugene Eades.

Fig 3 Nowanup aerial 2014. Courtesy Airpix

Fig. 3. The upper section of the property contains remnant or regrowth native vegetation, with the rest actively farmed prior to the revegetation

Approximately 340ha of the northern portion of the property is remnant bushland, with approximately 350 hectares of cleared land to the south, which has now been largely revegetated, including with trials of local species with commercial potential.

Some of the earlier plantings reflected a low-diversity revegetation approach, which was later improved across Gondwana Link plantings to better reflect the goal of ecological restoration modelled on local reference sites (see Monjebup summary). Nowanup’s early revegetation efforts were also impacted by difficulties in achieving good germination of a number of species on the sites difficult clay soils, with the result that many areas are dominated by a few species of eucalypts and acacias. These have been enriched recently by in-fill plantings which also demonstrate an improvement in the standard of work over 10 years. This has included improvements in the agronomy of direct seeding techniques (by Geoff Woodall), such as using direct drilling instead of scalping, that Greening Australia undertook in 2014, and which has subsequently been more widely used. In addition, integration of cultural and ecological aspects was advanced through a 2015 direct seeding project collaboratively designed by Eugene Eades and restoration practitioner Justin Jonson, which integrates indigenous cultural meaning and values into an ecological restoration project (Fig 4). The planting is only a year old, but the integration of cultural values and the sites biophysical conditions into one inclusive design is a powerful and innovative step forward. The site has been coined ‘Karta-Wongkin-Jini’ by Mr. Eades, which means ‘place where people come together’, and , with fantastic germination to date, is on track to serve as an important demonstration of culturally informed ecological restoration in practice.

Fig 4. Cultural EcoRestoration Systems 2015

Fig. 4. Eco-restoration design by Eugene Eades and Justin Jonson

Fig5. Cultural presentation Nowanup

Fig. 5. Schoolchildren enjoying a cultural presentation at the ‘Meeting Place’

Healing nature, healing people. Greening Australia was committed from the outset to engagement of the Noongar community in its operation in the Fitz-Stirling section of Gondwana Link. A cultural benefit of the project that was largely unforeseen but which developed rapidly has been the realization of the opportunities Nowanup presents for a range of programmes that support young Noongars at risk, as well as for rehabilitation and respite care. Eugene Eades has already supervised several Court arranged and respite care programmes on the property, and there is intense interest from a wide range of organisations in utilizing Eugene and Nowanup for running an extended range of programmes in the future (Fig 5). A project focused on the healing of country has great potential also for healing people.

The running of such programmes is out of scope for a conservation NGO whose mission is the transformation of landscape at scale. The programmes to date have made do with the very basic infrastructure that currently exists on Nowanup, with Greening plus supporters and donors subsidizing Eugene’s role in managing the programmes. Even while operating on this ad hoc basis, the programmes have proved Nowanup’s enormous potential for expanded cultural and social endeavours in the future. Greening Australia is keen to contribute to a transition that will allow for Nowanup’s full potential for such purposes to be realized.

Fig 6. Noongar planters by Ron D'Raine

Fig 6. Elder Aden Eades, Eugene Eades and Bill Woods lead a community planting day on Nowanup

Issues and Options. The framework plantings and larger scale direct seeding on Nowanup is now essentially complete, with the last significant works having been undertaken in 2015 – although infill plantings and seeding will occur as funding allows (Fig 6). From this point on, continuing conservation management of the property is required to ensure its contribution to ecological health in the Fitz-Stirling increases as the restoration work matures. With Greening Australia’s key focus on ecological restoration, there is no reason why properties that have been restored should not be subsequently divested to alternative ownership, so long as the necessary conservation covenants and management arrangements are in place. With Nowanup this would ideally be a body representative of local Noongar community interests. With both the original habitat areas and the revegetation and restoration areas already under protective covenant, the agreements and arrangements can be put in place to provide certainty for investment by corrections and/or welfare agencies into the infrastructure required to run properly-resourced programmes on the property. Nowanup will then be better placed to realize its full potential in healing country and people.

Funding: Revegetation costs were largely met through the Reconnections program, funded by Shell Australia, the Commonwealth Government’s Biodiversity Fund and 20 Million Trees Programme. Eugene Eades funds the cultural and social programs as a private business. Gondwana Link Ltd and Greening Australia provide support as needed.

Contact: Keith Bradby, Gondwana Link. PO Box 5276, Albany WA 6332. Phone: +61 (0)8 9842 0002. Email: bradby@gondwanalink.org

Read also EMR project summaries:

 

Re-introducing burning to Themeda Headland Grassland EEC, Narooma, NSW.

Tom Dexter, Jackie Miles, Deb Lenson

Key Words: Fire management, threatened ecosystem, Kangaroo Grass, weed management, Themeda

Introduction: In 2012, Eurobodalla Shire Council commenced a project to preserve local stands of declining Themeda Headland Grassland on Council managed land on three small headlands north of Narooma, NSW. Themeda Grassland on Seacliffs and Coastal Headlands is an Endangered Ecological Community (EEC) that grows on higher fertility soils and is listed under the NSW Threatened Species Conservation Act 1995.

Burning was trialed at two of the three sites to test whether fire could improve the environmental integrity of these sites. This trial has potential implications for the much larger stands of this EEC in various conservation reserves scattered along the NSW coastline as there are many which are not currently actively managed.

The three sites were slashed annually until 2010. While the dominant grass, Kangaroo Grass (Themeda triandra) was still present on all sites, the sites exhibited some decline in Kangaroo Grass cover and vigour, with weed present on all three sites (Fig 1). Slashing had kept the headlands free from shrubs however windrows of slashed grass suppressed Kangaroo Grass and appeared to encourage weed invasion. One of the sites, which was left unburnt for logistic reasons, was initially in worse condition than the other two due to the presence of an old vehicle track and more extensive weed cover particularly from Kikuyu (Pennisetum clandestinum).

The intensity of a burn is likely to vary on a seasonal basis and is dependent on the build-up of dead thatch and the prevailing conditions on the day. There is basis to believe that the traditional aboriginal burning would have taken place in Autumn and would have been a relatively cool burn. The optimum time to burn when considering the constraints of weed invasion is early spring.

Fig 1. Mowing damage at Duesburys Beach headland

Fig 1. Lines of bare ground indicate the location of windrows of dead grass from a history of mowing at Duesburys Beach headland

Works undertaken: Two successive burns were conducted in early spring on 2 of the 3 headlands, in August 2013 and August 2014 (Fig 2). The burn in 2013 was hotter than the burn in 2014 due to a higher build up of Kangaroo Grass thatch prior to the burn.

Follow-up weed control was implemented after the burns as the fire created gaps between the grasses and allowed targeted chemical control minimizing off target damage to Kangaroo Grass and other native species.

Data were collected on three occasions using ten 1 x 1 m quadrats, established along a 50 m transect spaced at 5 m intervals (one of these for each headland). The initial baseline data were recorded in Nov 2012, prior to the spring burns, and in each successive summer (2013/14 and 2014/15) following the burns.

Fig 2. Dalmeny Headlands burn 2015

Fig 2. Typical burn on the headlands

Results to date: The burnt areas (Figs 3 and 4) showed a significant decrease of annual exotic grasses; especially of Quaking Grass (Briza maxima) and Rats Tail Fescue (Vulpia spp.). The burnt areas also showed vigorous Kangaroo Grass growth and moderate seed production of that species. Two native species -Dwarf Milkwort (Polygala japonica) and Matgrass (Hemarthria uncinata Fig 5) not recorded prior to treatment were found after treatment in the quadrats. The most abundant native forbs, Swamp Weed (Selliera radicans) and Indian Pennywort (Centella asiatica) have persisted on the quadrats but not increased (Fig 6). Some exotic forbs – e.g. Yellow Catsear (Hypochaeris radicata) and Scarlet Pimpernel (Anagallis arvensis) have taken advantage of the removal of grass biomass and have also increased, further future analysis will determine whether this increase will impact on the native forbs. Perhaps the most important finding is the Coast Banksia (Banksia integrifolia) seedlings were killed by the fire allowing the sites to remain grassland.

The unburnt headland continues to deteriorate, with ongoing evidence of continued senescense of Kangaroo Grass, no Kangaroo Grass seed production, and exotic plants continuing to replace Kangaroo Grass in parts of the site. Kikuyu is the main exotic species on this site and is responsible for continued suppression of the native components of the grassland. There is also evidence of shrub invasion beginning to occur. It is anticipated that this site will be burnt in spring 2015.

Fig 2. Duesburys Point just after fire, Sept 2013

Fig 3. Duesburys Point just after burning, Sept 2013

Fig 3. Same site 11 months later, Aug 2014

Fig 4. Same site 11 months later, Aug 2014

What we learned: Kangaroo Grass remains vigorous throughout the burnt sites. The results to date show annual burning to be generally beneficial to the herbaceous components and associated grasses of this EEC. There was a higher success of exotic annual grass control in the first year which is most likely attributed to a hotter fire and perhaps timing. The first year also had accumulated multiple years of thatch which may have assisted fire intensity. Supplementary chemical control was effective, particularly when the fire created gaps between the grasses, allowing for better targeted chemical control.

Future directions: So far the results have shown that an August fire followed by the targeted chemical control of exotic grasses has considerable positive influence on the overall environmental integrity of this ecosystem. The annual burning allows the EEC to remain a grassland by killing off Coast Banksia and Coastal Acacia seedlings. It invigorates Kangaroo Grass growth and reduces the biomass of exotic perennial grasses at least in the short term. This again creates an opportunity in the aforementioned targeted chemical control. The herbaceous composition of the headland also remains intact and future analysis will determine whether burning has either a neutral or positive effect on growth. Kikuyu, Paspalum (Paspalum dilitatum) and annual exotic weeds continue to be the main problem. Increased post-burn selective herbicide application or hand weeding and planting of Kangaroo Grass tubestock may help to restore the grassland more rapidly than use of fire with limited weed control alone. Ongoing funding is being sought to continue the works over coming years and achieve further positive future outcomes.

Acknowledgements: The works were undertaken by Eurobodalla Shire Council with funding from the NSW Environmental Trust. Fire assistance from the NSW Rural Fire Service and cultural advice provided by Elders of the Walbunja people.

Contact: Tom Dexter; Environment and Sustainability Project Officer; Eurobodalla Shire Council (PO Box 99 Vulcan St Moruya 2537, Australia. Email: tom.dexter@eurocoast.nsw.gov.au).

Fig 5. Hemarthria uncinata was more evident after fire. (Duesburys Beach headland.)

Fig 5. Hemarthria uncinata was only evident after fire. (Duesburys Beach headland.)

Fig 5. More forbs among the grass after fire at Duesburys Point – e.g. Sellaria radicans

Fig 6. The forb Sellaria radicans persisted  among the grass after fire.

 

Burning for pasture, biodiversity and culture

Key words: Indigenous land management, patch burning, grassland restoration, native perennial grasses

Russell Hill

This innovative project is trialing traditional burning values in the Lachlan catchment to provide agricultural, biodiversity and cultural outcomes.

Burning trials across the Lachlan will be conducted with 10 landholders. This partnership between the Lachlan CMA and the NSW Rural Fire Service will set up 8 Indigenous community fire teams for the project. These trials will provide vital information about interactions between fire tolerant and fire sensitive species and the long term dynamics of habitats under varying fire regimes.
Members of the community (Indigenous and European) will better understand how ecological communities can be managed to improve agricultural returns, resilience and enhance biodiversity.

Figure1. Lachlan CMA Traditional Burning Technical Advisory Panel members observing one of the Pitfall sites where 6-12 months of monitoring will take place prior to any burn.

Focus of the project
• Issues in the role of carbon storage by native grassland pastures,
• The loss of perennial native grasses in the landscape and
• The role of cool burn fires as a positive tool for future management in a landscape under the influence of climate change.
• The project will develop the NRM skills of Indigenous Australians
• Increase biodiversity and improve the resilience of natural environments

Traditional Mosaic Burning. The innovation of gaining knowledge through investigating the role that traditional Indigenous mosaic burning can play in the future of pastoral management has obvious benefits in resilience building in both pasture care and the farming community.

Potentially mosaic burning can be a simple tool to empower everyone as conservationists and promote sustainable land management change.
The importance of bringing back native perennial grasses in the design of more productive grazing programs is understood, yet we know little about the ecology of these grasses. Australian native grasses have evolved in an environment where mosaic burning was a positive management tool. It has been demonstrated in native grasses of northern Australia that appropriate fire can have strong productive consequences on growth and seed production.

Cool burning has the ability to drive the production of increased seed yield and higher protein; hot fires can induce negative growth in many native grasses and over a long period leads to a loss of perennial ground cover. This project will experimentally question the effects of fire on southern Australian flora (with a grass focus) and fauna over a 10 year period.

What is being done? The Lachlan CMA commenced working with communities in February 2011 through community information evenings, followed by visits to community centre’s and field sites. During the first year of the project community fire teams of Indigenous community members will be trained by the RFS in fire fighting. These teams will then assist scientists, Lachlan CMA staff and RFS in conducting experimental burns at 10
locations across the Lachlan region.

Figure 2. A ‘cool’ burn conducted in Lachlan catchment grasslands.

Ten properties containing eight treatments (4x 5ha 2011 Spring burns, 4 x 5 ha 2012 Autumn burns total = 40 ha), with five paired replicates will be used in the design (total burns & controls = 360 ha). In conjunction with the burns, field sites will be monitored for biodiversity using Indigenous community members supervised by biologists.

Contact:  Russell Hill, Catchment Officer, Aboriginal Cultural Heritage Program Lachlan CMA, PO Box 726, FORBES NSW Australia, 2871. Tel: +61 2 6851 9514; Mob: 0428 423 991; Email: Russell.Hill@cma.nsw.gov.au

Jidaanga cultural project – endangered Phaius australis – Kempsey NSW

Key words: Indigenous land management, threatened species, translocation, recovery plans

Amie McElroy

In the early 2000s, Dunghutti/Gumbainggirr Elder and one of  the founding members of Booroongen Djugun College, Aunty Maggie Morris, advised the College board that there was a small colony of the nationally listed Endangered orchid, Phaius australis, also known as the Swamp Orchid or Swamp Lily, in the Kempsey Area on the mid north coast of NSW.  Finding this orchid then became a key aim of the Natural Resources Unit of the College. In 2007, volunteer staff member, Phil March, then retraced the ‘steps’ of Aunty Maggie and found the orchid in her childhood area. 

Figure 1. Phaius australis Jidaanga in situ (© Booroongen Djugun College)

NSW Department of Environment and Heritage (then DECCW) believe this newly located colony to be the southern limit of the Swamp Orchid, the next nearest colony being near Coffs Harbour approximately 100km north. There are currently about 14 known populations in NSW, most with very few plants.
Because the colony is at risk, the College formed an Aboriginal Natural Resource Agreement with DECCW who provided a grant of $25,000, to allow BDC establish The Phaius australis recovery project and the Northern Rivers Catchment Management Authority. Through this project, two plants were removed under scientific licence to be kept at separate locations as an insurance measure in case of the loss of the natural plants. These have been successfully nurtured, and seed collected from them is being held in laboratory conditions for propagation.

The population has been subjected to seed collection and minimal weed removal by a Dunghutti Indigenous weed management team selected by the local Aboriginal community, who received accredited training in Conservation and Land Management through the College. This has substantially improved the health and flowering of the remaining population of Swamp Orchids over the last three flowering seasons.

Figure 2. Conservation and Land Management students propagating Phaius australis from flask in June 2011. (© Booroongen Djugun College)

Cultural Heritage Officers from the Northern Country Culture Heritage Division of DEH trained the team in cultural site surveying, and emphasis has been placed on renewing cultural connection to Phaius in ways that consistently involve the Traditional knowledge holders and Elders for their ecological expertise and advice.

The College has been successful in obtaining a NSW Government Environmental Trust ‘grant  of close to $100,000 to develop and implement a Translocation and Management Plan.  The Phaius australis Recovery – Increasing Native Habitat project, recently renamed  ‘Jidaanga Cultural Project – Endangered Phaius australis  – which aims to:

• obtain 1500 plants from culture and seed growing to a size where there is a reasonable chance of survival and reintroduction to a suitable habitat (approximately 1000 have been raised) by Jan 2012)
• development and implement a Translocation and Management Plan to identify suitable habitat where there is a likelihood of successful reintroduction (Identification of suitable sites is in development).
• integrate the Traditional ecological knowledge of the Dunghutti and Gumbaynggir peoples with the orthodox scientific skills of the Department of Environment and Heritage , in training Aboriginal participants to create a geographic information system
• provide further training opportunities for Aboriginal communities in Conservation and Land Management, incorporating the management actions for on ground works on ‘country’.

Figure 3. Propagated plants housed at Booroongen Djugun College December 2011. (© Booroongen Djugun College)

Through the collaborative efforts of our partners and the Dunghutti and Gumbaynggir Elders, this work intends to acknowledge the Aboriginal contribution and importance of saving a very important part of our cultural heritage.

Contact: Amie McElroy, Aboriginal Extension Project Officer, Aboriginal Communities, Macleay and Hastings and Nambucca Catchments, Booroongen Djugun College,  Locked bag 3 Kempsey NSW 2440 Australia. Tel: +61 2 6560 2005; Mob: 0427 621 577, Email: anrm@booroongendjugun.com.au

Natural and cultural resource management – The aspirations of the traditional custodians of the Bunya Mountains

Key words:  Araucaria bidwilii, Bunya, fire,  South East Queensland, traditional custodians

David Calland

Prior to colonisation, the Bunya Mountains was a place of large gatherings of the Aboriginal people of South East Queensland for the ‘Bonye Bonye’ festival; a time of feasting, ceremony, trading, betrothals and the settling of disputes. In years when there were heavy crops of the nutritious bunya nuts (from the native Bunya Pine, Araucaria bidwilii), invitations from custodians went out to groups towards the coast and to people as far away as the Clarence River in northern NSW and the Maranoa River over 350k to the west. Festivals took place from December to March and the last big recorded gathering was in the 1880s.

In August 2008 the first of a series of Stakeholder Forums were held on the Bunya Mountains of SE Queensland to discuss natural and cultural resource management issues and to explore ways for the Murri people of South East Queensland to become more actively involved in planning, research and on ground management of lands in the Bunya Mountains region.
Traditional Custodians from about twelve groups met with scientists, Government and Non Government Organisations and business representatives and as a result the Bunya Partnership Coordination Group (BPCG) and the Bunya Elders Council were formed to create Natural and Cultural Resource Management opportunities for Traditional Custodians.

Stakeholders on Mt Kiangarow (1126m).

Australian Government funding was secured to develop a Caring for Our Country Action Plan for the Bunya Mountains. The plan was published in late 2010.

In September 2009, a bid to the Australian Government for the Working on Country program was successful. This project is called the Bunya Mountains Murri Ranger Project. The project has employed 4 Indigenous Rangers, a Coordinator Ranger and a part time Administrative Assistant. The group is working collaboratively with Queensland Parks and Wildlife Service on the Bunya Mountains National Park and the Western Downs Regional Council on Russell Park.

The Bunya Mountains support a unique assemblage of plants, animals and ecosystems and have been likened to an island of biodiversity surrounded by an ocean of plains of mainly cleared farmland. They are a biodiversity refuge, harbouring ancient species, distinct plant and animal communities and more than 30 rare and threatened species.

One hundred and nineteen grasslands, known locally as “balds”, are dotted across the Bunya Mountains. These balds have important cultural significance as they were maintained by traditional burning practice.

The first traditional burn in 100 years; Bunya Murri Rangers 2010.

A large component of the project involves the management of fire on the grasslands through experimental burns of varying frequencies and intensities. Researchers and rangers are working to find the right fire regimes to maintain the open character and species diversity of the balds before they are lost forever.

Contact: Dave Calland, Natural Resource Officer -Indigenous Engagement, Department of Environment and Resource Management. PO Box 573, Nambour Qld 4560, Australia.  Tel: +61 4 5451 2401 Mob: 0427 427246, Email: david.calland@derm.qld.gov.au

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

Three action research projects: (i)Traditional Knowledge Revival Pathways Fire Program, (ii)Kuku Thaypan Fire Management Research Project and (iii)the Importance of Campfires to Effective Conservation – Cape York Peninsula Australia

Key words: Traditional ecological knowledge, natural resource management, Indigenous research, Indigenous training, fire management

Location and purpose of the projects. Kuku-Thaypan (Awu Laya) country is part of the Cape York bio-geographical region, Cook Shire, North Queensland.  Every year, areas of Cape York Peninsula burn through prescribed and uncontrolled fire in the late dry and storm seasons.  Although increasing, little burning generally occurs throughout the early dry season. The effect of fire on the environment is under study through a number of research initiatives including the Traditional Knowledge Revival Pathways (TKRP), the Kuku Thaypan Fire Management Research project (KTFMRP) and the “Importance of Campfires to effective conservation research”.  However, it is clear that more recent fire regimes are different to those practiced by traditional Indigenous land managers and that these more recent fire regimes do not ensure the maintenance of native vegetation communities that require specific fire management regimes or protection from fire.

Victor Steffensen Mulong Director with participants at 2011 TKRP fire workshop

Fig 1. Victor Steffensen Mulong Director with participants at 2011 TKRP fire workshop on Kuku Thaypan Country sand bank at Gno Coom – Saxby Lagoon – principal study site for the TKRP KTFMRP and The Importance of Campfires 2004-2011.

Prior to European occupation, for example, fire management in Kuku Thaypan country was carried out throughout the year for a variety of purposes. Traditional owners tended different ecosystems with burn regimes at different times of year and actively managed country to keep fire out. Various scales of between and within ecosystem burning resulted. Each implemented action undertaken in response to a suite of cultural and environmental indicators.

In order to understand the significance of Mo (fire) for Kuku Thaypan people it is necessary to recognise that every square inch of Kuku Thaypan country is embedded with cultural meaning, that their exists interconnectivity between all things; and that all things are animate and sentient. Fire is sacred and as such its use brings great responsibility. Fire maps have been developed for Early season, Dry season and Storm season fires over a ten year period from 2000 to 2010.
What we are doing. The TKRP, KTFMRP and the “Importance of Campfires to effective conservation research” projects have actively supported the ambitions of two senior Kuku Thaypan Elders, Dr. Tommy George and the late Dr. George Musgrave since 2004. The Indigenous Elders wanted to demonstrate the benefits of their fire knowledge, practically implementing fire to heal country while teaching others and recording it for generations to come and as such initiated their KTFMRP. This was the Elders’ response to seeing their country burnt “too hot, at the wrong time and in the wrong places.” Every year since 2004, the programs have  undertaken successful on-country Indigenous led and centered co-generative action research and training programs focused on fire management.

Peta Standley TKRP KTFMRP co-researcher

Fig 2. Peta Standley TKRP KTFMRP co-researcher working with 2011 workshop participants undertaking monitoring at a non-TEK burn site.

Achievements to date. The evolution of this work has led to the development of the TKRP Indigenous Fire training program in 2010 and the description of a research practitioner model for “integration” of Traditional Ecological Knowledge (TEK) in contemporary resource management with a focus on fire and biodiversity. The TKRP fire program is educating both Indigenous and non-Indigenous natural resource management practitioners and researchers from diverse communities across Australia in Traditional fire management and research practices derived from the recordings and teachings of the two Kuku Thaypan Elders. In each new community that engages with the program, TEK and western science fire and biodiversity knowledge is being shared, invigorated and co-generated through on-country action.

Dr. Tommy George

Fig 3. Dr. Tommy George monitoring the 2011 Fire Workshop on Kuku Thaypan country

Significance. The benefits of the program are not just for country, but also for people. The TKRP Indigenous research methodology embodies an ancient way to undertake cultural practice, where the right people have a voice to ensure that interactions with country and people are undertaken according to protocol, kinship and lore. This Indigenous methodology and the CAMPFIRES research practitioner model, applied in co-generation, have created unified ways to do research and culturally appropriate ways to bring Indigenous knowledge of fire and biodiversity into contemporary environment and resource management. Together they have worked with others on multiple pathways for engagement between TEK holders and western science knowledge holders that have been culturally relevant and naturally benefited country and community. One of the pathways is the Indigenous led participatory action research project – “Threats to Native Bees (Sugarbag)” which was initiated and led by the Indigenous participants.

Acknowledgements. Partners in the project include Mulong TKRP, James Cook University, and CSIRO.  Thanks go to the funding agencies, partners and supporters of the projects over the last eight years.

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