Traditional owners care for country on the Carmichael
ON THE sight of the proposed Adani Carmichael mine, a new environmental monitoring initiative is under way that aims to re-connect traditional land owners with country.
Woongal Environmental Services is on site monitoring the ground water dependant ecosystem with a team of specialist ecologists and ten young traditional owner field operators (TOFO).
The team consists of Wangan and Jagalingou people and is tasked to monitor water quality, aquatic and terrestrial ecology, the waxy palm cabbage and weeds or pests on the Carmichael site.
Managing director of Woomral Environmental Services and environmental scientist, Bill Haylock hoped the program would give Indigenous people the ability to deepen their connection with country through science.
"What we aim to do is build Indigenous capacity in environmental monitoring so that Indigenous people can go back on country and care for country more directly,” Mr Haylock said.
"We are putting 10 traditional owner field operators on the ground and we're training them up through ecology, environmental assessment and monitoring.
"They're in the field this week at the Carmichael mine site, each with a senior ecologist with over 20 years experience in the field.”
Mr Haynock said for many of the TOFOs, this project had been their first time back on country for multiple generations.
"They're now learning about their land and a new connection to country,” he said.
"They're back on country and they want to look after it.
"To understand and have the skill sets to take the science and learn it at a high level...they will have the tools in the future to make greater decisions about their own land.”
During the project, Mr Haylock said he had noticed the learning experience had gone both ways with the TOFOs offering generations of family knowledge to the monitoring process.
"We often learn things back from our Indigenous team, like feedback from what they have learned from their parents and grandparents about the feel of country - it often corresponds with the science,” he said.
The project at the Adani mine will be the first of many steps towards a future in environmental science for this class of TOFOs who will study for a Certificate III in land care and environmental monitoring.
"Hopefully that will be through the CQUni, and then they would have the option to bridge into a second year environmental science,” Mr Haylock said.
"They could work for themselves, or their people, and they will have the ability to minimise the impacts of project on their country.”