Hybrid land management program reaps rewards of business success while strengthening cultural ties

Taking on the task of finding where tradition can trump modern convention, a group of Indigenous land stewards have been harnessing their ancestors’ knowledge of conservation for more than a decade with great success, and now, recognition. national.

The Narrap Unit of the Wurundjeri Woi Wurrung Cultural Heritage Aboriginal Corporation oversees the land management of their country encompassing Naarm (Melbourne) and its regional environs.

The team of 20 full-time employees is evaluating where Western tactics can make room for traditional burning, restoration, weed control and other cultural methods on their project list.

Operating solely in the open market, in the four years since Sean Hunter, the eldest of Wurundjeri and Narrap unit manager, was involved, the number of deals won has steadily grown. .

“The appetite for us is huge right now,” Hunter said.

“We would like to take it all on, but we don’t have the staff at this point and that’s why we’re recruiting and getting the right people right now.”

Narrap is looking to expand its workforce beyond forty within the year.

Their all-indigenous team, all with Certificate III in Conservation Land Management, are subject to their education by Wurundjeri as recruits on the basis of full-time job opportunities with qualifications in hand.

The practical methods learned can be useful in the built-up areas in which they often operate.

“A lot of our projects are given to us, we get to design them ourselves on how we approach them,” Hunter said.

“Given the location, we’re going to use a lot of different techniques.

“There’s a lot of weeds and things that weren’t there before and a lot of areas that haven’t been taken care of.

“It’s a mix of just culture and western science, I guess, all mixed up.”

Between urbanization and threats to the landscape, bringing some elements of their indigenous customs to the management of natural resources has its obstacles.

It’s a long process, although the team actively tries to restore traditional techniques where possible.

Sean Hunter receives the KPMG Indigenous Land Management Award at the National Landcare Awards on August 24. Photo: Pete S / Event Photos Australia

Avoiding it where they can, Mr Hunter said the use of chemicals is sometimes necessary.

“We’re starting to put a lot of fire back into the landscape, which is done at the right time,” Hunter said.

“It took care of a lot of weed species for us and helped regenerate native plants that we want to recover.

“We’re not going to take soil samples or anything like that, we’re assessing the area, seeing what’s needed, what we’re going to get rid of and how we’re going to deal with it.

“We’ve lost a lot of knowledge about how to do things, and we’re still learning quite a bit.”

Adding to the flood of business to come, the Narrap unit took national honors last week, winning the Indigenous Land Management category at Landcare Australia’s annual awards.

“Caring for the country and caring for the sea, from an indigenous perspective, as part of a cultural obligation or responsibility, is not just a job or an industry to work in” , board member of Landcare Australia and leader of the North Australian Indigenous Land & Sea Management Alliance said Director Ricky Archer.

“You empower and empower traditional owners to fulfill their obligations to the country.”

Mr Hunter said Narrap increasingly aspires to manage his country’s lands and waterways.