Traditional Owners Reunite

Traditional Owners gather on Country together with Reef Catchments Mackay

Traditional Owners gather on Country to share stories and assist in environmental planning for our region’s future

Traditional Owners reunite on Country in the beautiful Whitsundays and Cape Hillsborough region.

During May, Traditional Owners from the Mackay Whitsunday Isaac region came together on Country to meet, connect and have a say in the management of our natural resources.

The Traditional Owner Reference Group (TORG) is hosted by Reef Catchments. Bringing together mobs from across the MWI region, the group is an important platform to ensure TO views are represented in environmental planning.

The TORG also provides a point of contact for organisations and businesses who are seeking Traditional Owner representation and insight into their projects and activities.

Reef Catchments Coasts and Biodiversity coordinator, Stefanie Wabnik, said going on Country with the TORG was a meaningful way to gain a deeper understanding of Traditional values.

“It allows us to see first hand the spiritual and cultural significance of the Reef’s animals, plants and places,” she said.

“Having Traditional Owners involved in the long-term management of our natural resources is essential. Their rich cultures, heritage values and enduring connections with the environment offer a unique perspective that must be taken into account for future protection of the Great Barrier Reef and our natural assets.”

Six mobs came together to make the trip with Reef Catchments staff, as well as representatives from the Mackay-Whitsunday Healthy Rivers to Reef Partnership (HRRP) and Queensland Parks and Wildlife Services (QPWS).

Represented were people from Ngaro, Gia, Juru, Yuwibara, Koinmerburra, Barrada and Wiri groups.

Country visited included Nara Inlet (Hook Island) and South Molle Island, which are both Ngaro land. The group also visited Yuwibera Trail, Mangrove Walk, Andrews Point Track (Cape Hillsborough), Finlayson Point (Seaforth) and Ball Bay.

Reef Catchments engaged Terra Rosa to develop the structure and capacity of the TORG and to develop initial capacity to oversee Aboriginal site recording and management, Natural Resource Management projects and training.

“It’s about identifying sites and working together. We’re integrating traditional values with modern planning and resource management, which is very exciting,” Ms Wabnik said.

Importantly, the on Country visit will inform a new cultural indicator to be included in the Mackay-Whitsunday Healthy Rivers to Reef Report Card for 2016. Fieldwork measured the condition of some of our region’s important indigenous cultural heritage sites.

HRRP Chair, Diane Tarte, said the partnership was pleased to be working in collaboration with the Traditional Owner Reference Group, coordinated by Reef Catchments.

“We are working to develop an assessment of indigenous cultural heritage relating to our region’s waterways and marine environment.

“For the first time in our region, information on the health of these sites, their relationship with each other (connectedness), level of protection and significance will be converted into a report card grade which we hope to compare over time.

“Along with the report card’s environmental indicators, the cultural heritage indicator will assist in prioritising management responses for the region’s waterways and marine environment in future years,” she said.

Traditional Owner input will also be included in the MQI Reef Recovery Plan, currently under development by the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority (GBRMPA).

The Mackay Whitsunday Healthy Rivers to Reef Partnership is a collaboration between 22 partners from community, Traditional Owners, farmers and fishers, industry, science, tourism and government – read more here: http://healthyriverstoreef.org.au/

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