Spinifex people return to country for conservation planning

[April 2015]
 
The Spinifex Land Management ranger team joined community members from Tjuntjuntjara last month on a return to country trip on Spinifex Country, part of the Great Victoria Desert, Western Australia. 
 
Spinifex people - mallefowl surveyThe March trip was part of the process that Spinifex Land Management commenced in 2014 to develop a Healthy Country Plan. 
 
Rangelands NRM Program Manager, Desert and Pilbara, Chris Curnow said the return to country trip gave Elders with unbroken ties to this land, the opportunity to share their story and knowledge with the ranger team about what is important and how to care for country.
 
“Rangelands NRM is very supportive of Traditional Owners taking the time to map and document their country, so as to better direct external collaborators in appropriate ways to caring for country,” he said.
 
Spinifex Land Management Ranger Coordinator, Liam Mulcahy said the return to country trips aimed to promote collaboration between Spinifex people and the ranger team.
 
“This collaboration supports the land management goals of the Pila Nguru Aboriginal Corporation to develop their Healthy Country Plan for key areas of the Spinifex country, an extensive area spanning some 55,000 square kilometres of country.”
 
A group of 25, including Tjitjidi community members, rangers and support staff, visited important cultural sites west of Wanna Lakes and discussed the current health of the land as well as priorities for ranger activities. 
 
“We talked about current conservation activities including mallefowl monitoring and shared concerns about feral camels moving through the area, highlighting the importance of protecting rock holes and soaks from camel impacts, “ said Mr Mulcahy.
 
“The area is a significant women’s site and male rangers were respectful of Elders and women’s business in the discussions,” he said.
 
The Ilkurlka trip, 900 km east of Kalgoorlie, was attended mainly by men from the Tjuntjuntjara community as well as rangers and support staff from Conservation Management, who are assisting the healthy country planning process. 
 
Stuart Cowell from Conservation Management said the activities and discussions of this trip involved the rangers working with the community to consider land and cultural heritage management strategies.
 
“The rangers were keen to hear from the Elders, while bringing their operational perspective to determine how the strategies will be implemented,” he said.
 
While at Ilkurlka, the group discussed evidence of endangered malleefowl and marsupial mole populations, and spoke with visiting Department of Food and Agriculture (DAFWA) Field Coordinator Mac Jensen about managing feral animals and weeds.

There are more return to country trips planned before the finalisation of the first Healthy Country Plan for Spinifex Country and the rangers are keen to respect the Elders and start prioritising key activities for implementation.

Photo: Spinifex people conducting a mallefowl survey. Photo courtesy of Conservation Management.