People and Places
26/02/2020
Indigenous environmental learning on Country

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Now here’s something timely that makes complete environmental sense. In the wake of the juggernaut fire systems that have catapulted through our country over the past few months, Trust For Nature and the Bunurong Land Council’s Warreen Beek Rangers program has more purpose than ever. Now in its third year, this in-the-field ‘on Country’ course designed for Indigenous and Torres Strait Islander peoples to come together and reignite existing inherent understanding of the land moves ever-forward towards a climate-caring future. 

Trust For Nature is a not-for-profit organisation that was formed in 1972. Partnering with private landowners in Victoria to protect native plants and wildlife for future generations, the group put forward an expression of interest to Indigenous groups asking them what they wanted to learn about managing the land. In response, the Warreen Beek Rangers program, in which participants graduate with a Certificate III in Conservation and Land Management from Holmesglen, was created. Seven graduates were awarded their certificates last year and this time round more female participants are being encouraged to take part in the course. 

Trust For Nature’s regional manager for Port Phillip and Westernport, Ben Cullen, explains: “This year’s course begins in April and runs through to December, with two days of contact per week, which takes place mainly in the field with some classes at the Holmesglen Campus. We’ve just put out an expression of interest and are hoping to get more women involved. There are up to 15 positions available. We work mainly with Bunurong and Wurundjeri traditional owners on identifying suitable sites.  Some include Peninsula Gardens Bushland Reserve in Rosebud and Point Nepean. We’ve been able to identify certain Indigenous artefacts, scar trees and middens so far. I must admit we’ve learnt just as much from the participants as they have from us. They already have a deep understanding of Country and a natural understanding of the environment. Some of the people involved in the Warreen Beek Rangers program have never graduated from a course. All graduates from over the last two years are now working in conservation or land management. They are in charge of the land. They have accreditation.”

Trust For Nature has been involved in protecting the likes of Greens Bush in Boneo and Arthurs Seat National Park for years. The Warreen Beek Rangers program has already contributed to the restoration of precious middens while teaching skills such as chainsaw  and chemical use, occupational health and safety, weed control and cultural studies. Then there’s the fire elders who come on board to teach the practice of Indigenous burns. And with an unstable climate future ahead of us, these skills and the knowledge that comes from centuries of understanding may just be what we need to turn the tide on climate change. Yes?

LIZ ROGERS 

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