Rangelands NRM has been assisting Aboriginal held, owned or managed pastoral leases in the southern rangelands of WA to manage their properties in an ecologically sustainable way.
Mt Wittenoom Station in the Murchison and Ullawarra Station in the Upper Gascoyne were chosen in collaboration with the Indigenous Landholder Service (ILS) as two particular properties whose managers were highly respected amongst other Aboriginal corporations and businesses in the pastoral industry.
Indigenous Project Facilitator at Rangelands NRM, Bevan Gray said the Indigenous Sustainable Pastoralism project was run in-conjunction with a wider Sustainable Pastoral Program (SPP).
“This project aimed to explore the current conditions of each property and address the opportunities to improve the landscape where it was required and enhance the use of good conditioned land,” Mr Gray said.
“Capturing how certified training, recognition of prior learning and the newer technological advancements might be able to assist management of the family business.”
To support the property planning, Rangelands NRM employed the services of BIOTA Environmental Sciences’ Richard Glover to deliver Ecologically Sustainable Rangelands Management or ESRM plans.
These plans are mapped out on country with long discussions on what the values are on the lease, what needs to be addressed and how to prioritised the work that is necessary in the eyes of the land user.
The two chosen properties are from differing bio-regions and that has produced different outcomes because of this.
Mt Wittenoom is situated north of Yalgoo and owned by Baratha Aboriginal Corporation. Rangelands NRM worked with more than 20 members throughout the project which was encouraging for the long term future of Baratha AC and the station. Timothy Simpson is the station manager and is ably supported by his wife Gloria Merry and their son Grant Simpson. Tim and Gloria’s other children assist with the station management from time to time joining forces for the busy periods.
Wild dogs had become an overbearing problem for the production of the stations stock severely impacting on the businesses bottom line. Mt Wittenoom is part of a larger group of pastoralists who are building an electrified fence to protect several stations over a large pastoral area.
“Rangelands NRM and the ILS joined in supporting a closer group of neighbours to back Baratha in applying for an Indigenous Land Corporation - Infrastructure Grant to electrify the station boundary as a stage of this greater fencings project,” Mr Gray said.
“The grant was successful and the team at Mt Wittenoom set about constructing the fence, upgrading most of the existing property fence.”
The ESRM project was undertaken when time allowed without interfering with the important fencing project. This was managed and achieved by conducting on ground assessment at the station in early May 2013.
The BIOTA team of a landscape ecologist, a zoologist and a botanist spent two days working across the lease studying the flora and fauna with knowledge gained from hands on explanations from Tim, Gloria and Grant as well as information available from previous condition reports.
The draft ESRM report was presented to Baratha AC in late August 2013. The draft will be finalised once the station has completed its fence.
Ullawarra is a cattle station on the edge of the Pilbara north of Gascoyne Junction. The conditions were much different being rocky country compared to the flatter sand plain country of the Murchison. The Wurrkaja Aboriginal Corporation is made up of members of the Lapthorne family. Charlie Lapthorne is the station manager ably assisted by his son Eddie. The family are supported from Carnarvon and use younger members when they are required at the station.
The ILS nominated Ullawarra to participate in the ESRM planning session and during this, up to 20 people represented their family through the engagement process and on country planning. Wurrkaja AC had completed training in governance including property planning and had partly completed an ESRM property report with the ILS.
The on-country assessment was conducted in late July - early August 2013 with the draft delivered in Carnarvon late in November.
“Wild donkeys and dogs pose a threat to Ullawarra and need to be addressed urgently,” Mr Gray said.
“Capture and retention of water is also considered a priority with the protection of natural water holes and springs at the top of the agenda. In turn this will help with the management of feral cattle. Securing the properties paddocks systems will be a continuing priority.”
Wurrkaja members are especially proud of the property report, have provided comments, made changes and endorsed the final report. The report was hand delivered to Wurrkaja members recently when they were in Geraldton on business. Many great opportunities are now presented to Ullawarra Station as a business and to Wurrkaja AC as a corporation which is enhanced through being neighbour to the Barlee Range or Jiddarrda as it is traditionally known.
Negotiations between the Department of Parks and Wildlife (DPaW) and Wurrkaja AC may lead to joint management of the estate and potential “fee for service” contracts with DPaW to police the protection and conservation of a highly rated environmental asset to the rangelands of WA.
Mr Gray said how work is to be funded is an integral part of the planning process and Rangelands NRM helped the corporations to look for funding opportunities and assist the them to apply or fund directly through the SPP where applicable
Working with the two properties, it was hoped other properties would become involved through their own corporations and businesses through the learning gained through the initial projects.
“2014 will see the same project being conducted at Cardabia Station near Coral Bay and at Towrana/Gilroyd Stations situated south of Gascoyne Junction,” Mr Gray said.
Aboriginal pastoral businesses are encouraged to learn about the SPP through the Rangelands NRM Geraldton office and by approaching either of the stations mentioned for some background knowledge before linking themselves into ESRM planning.
Pastoralism has its own long and varied history with the Traditional Owners of the pastoral lands used throughout the southern rangelands of WA. Many, in fact, most pastoral leases utilised the workforce readily available from the people who have lived on that country for many thousands of years. Those people have substantial intricate knowledge of the landscape, its values and the ecology which underpins each whether it is the land or the water systems. History has seen many families become pastoralists themselves. Historically the industry prospers in the good times and suffers in the bad. To the people on the land this is the norm and they are prepared for the bad knowing the good will come.
For more information, contact Bevan Gray by email or phone 9964 8245
Top Left: Planning at Mt Wittenoom (©Karen Cosgrove)
Bottom Right: Group discussion on Ullawarra (©Bevan Gray)