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Tasmanian Aboriginal Immersion Days for National Science Week

Last week (18 and 20 August) in a biodiversity hotspot in the Tasmanian Midlands, 30 Indigenous students came together with farmers, natural resource land managers, scientists, educators and members of their communities for three Aboriginal Immersion Days, funded by a National Science Week grant. They were joined by Bill Gammage, author of ‘The Biggest Estate on Earth’ – a history of Aboriginal land management.

Aboriginal educator Dave Gough

Aboriginal Educator Dave Gough

On Beaufront, a property near Ross managed by wool farmer Julian von Bibra, Greening Australia hosted an Aboriginal Land Management Field Day on Sunday 18 August. With Aboriginal Educator Dave Gough, Greening Australia CEO Brendan Foran welcomed the 80 attendees to the site.

Participants visited an Aboriginal stone quarry and the overlooking sandstone caves to investigate Tasmanian Devil scats – a unique moment for the group as even Julian himself had not visited this part of the property.

 The group inspecting caves on the property

The group inspecting caves on the property

“David Gough’s reading of the tool quarry, grassy plains, caves and escarpment felt like time travel. Learning about the flora, fauna, water resources and rare rock formations deepened my understanding of our history and heritage.”
Participant Cath Cloudsdale

The group discussed land management issues – particularly the option of farming deer and wallaby rather than hard-hooved sheep and cattle – over a lunch of wallaby tacos, cooked on the open fire.

The Field Day was followed by an Aboriginal Land Management Symposium on 20 August at Greening Australia’s Hobart office, the Sustainability Learning Centre in Mount Nelson. The session was led by a talk from Bill Gammage and supported by Aboriginal leaders.

Participants contributed to a round-table discussion, and the following points emerged:

  • What if landholders include Aboriginal access on their property titles, opening private land up to facilitate Indigenous land management?
  • Consideration of low-input systems and short rotational grazing that encourages regeneration
  • Finding ways to make Aboriginal contributions to land management financially sustainable for private landholders
  • Need to educate people further in Aboriginal land management to reduce fear of fire, and see fire as an ally, resource and tool to improve biodiversity.

    The group on Country at Beaufront

    The group on Country at Beaufront

Thirty students who took part in the Aboriginal Immersion Days on Country, then went on to interpret their experiences for family and the wider community at Aboriginal Science Expos at Campbell Town and Oatlands schools.

Greening Australia Education Coordinator Nel Smit, who organised the events for National Science Week, said: “The broad range of participants in the events elicited passionate conversations in support of working together to embrace Aboriginal heritage in ongoing land management practice.”

“It’s such an important event to hold in the Midlands Biodiversity Hotspot, and bringing people together to celebrate Aboriginal heritage helps us integrate traditional ecological knowledge into our restoration work”
Brendan Foran, Greening Australia CEO

Through our Thriving on Country program, we partner with Aboriginal communities across Australia to bring together traditional and contemporary knowledge, build skills, increase employment opportunities and support people to get back on country.