Traditional Owners meet on Country to plan natural resource management activities in the Mackay Whitsunday region

Dec 7, 2014 | , ,
Representatives of the Gia, Ngaro, Yuwi-bara and Koinjmal Traditional Owner groups.
Representatives of the Gia, Ngaro, Yuwi-bara and Koinjmal Traditional Owner groups from the Mackay Whitsunday region have come together to highlight priorities for the management of our region’s natural resources.

Representatives of the Gia, Ngaro, Yuwi-bara and Koinjmal Traditional Owner groups recently spent two days at Action Challenge, Hay Point, to identify their priorities for natural resource management in the region and build partnerships that will help them achieve their goals.

This was also an opportunity for the different groups to spend time on Country together talking, fishing and bush walking as their elders did.

This meeting supports the engagement of Traditional Owners, the reconnection with country and collaboratively working to protect and enhance ecosystems.

Kerensa McCallie, Senior Project Officer for Biodiversity and Indigenous NRM, said it was important that programs include the perspectives of Traditional Owners and support them to be part of the decision making process.

“On-country meetings are an important part of reconnection to country. They provide an opportunity to get out of the meeting room and into the field and have a more open, relaxed discussion,” she said.

The meeting was also an opportunity to build important stakeholder partnerships, with presentations from Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority’s (GBRMPA) Indigenous Partnerships Unit, and Girringun Aboriginal Corporation (GAC) about the development of a Traditional Use of Marine Resource Agreement (TUMRA).

This essential first step allowed Traditional Owners to understand the process behind the TUMRA first hand from GBRMPA representatives responsible for developing the agreements, and the GAC who have successfully implemented a TUMRA on the Sea-Country of 6 salt-water groups around Cardwell in North Queensland.

“The opportunity to have Girringun representatives who have a working TUMRA speak with the TORG meant that Mackay Whitsunday Traditional Owner groups could get a realistic perspective on the challenges, opportunities and lessons learnt by Girringun in the process,” said Ms. McCallie

Former Indigenous Ranger and now coordinator of the Girringun Aboriginal Corporation TUMRA, Whitney Rassip, said the meeting was an opportunity to share their journey.

“We spent two years developing a TUMRA so we feel strongly about helping other groups especially in these early stages, so they learn from our experiences, good and bad.

“Our TUMRA includes 6 saltwater groups and is administered by a TUMRA Steering Committee with representatives from each group, as well as from the GBRMPA, Fisheries Queensland and NPRSR-Marine Parks.

“We work together to sustainably manage hunting of dugong and turtles, while gathering data on habitat and species to assist research efforts. We also train our Rangers to monitor things like seagrass and maintain and monitor cultural heritage sites within the Great Barrier Reef.”

The development of a TUMRA for the Mackay Whitsunday region will progress from here with the first priority being to make sure all the relevant Traditional Owners are involved, a process led by GBRMPA and supported by Girringun and Reef Catchments.

In the meantime, the Reef Catchments TORG will continue to meet quarterly to support the involvement of Traditional Owners in having a say in how natural resources of the region are managed.

The TORG group also provides opportunity for the region’s Traditional Owners to promote their traditional ecological knowledge and cultural heritage to the broader community.

This will include TORG representation on key regional bodies such as the Mackay Whitsunday Healthy Rivers to Reef Partnership and the Local Marine Advisory Committees.

For further information about the TORG or Traditional Owner engagement, please contact Kerensa McCallie at kerensa.mccallie@reefcatchments.com or 0429033541