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Thursday, 30 June 2022

Working together to protect Taungurung country

The North East Catchment Management Authority (CMA) has partnered with Parks Victoria and Taungurung Land and Waters Council (TLaWC) to protect and manage Taungurung Country. The project included three days of targeted training on alpine ecology and on-ground weed control on alpine peatland complexes across Mt Buffalo National Park.

By providing upskilling opportunities for the Taungurung, the project aims to build capacity for managing these sensitive areas, foster partnerships, increase opportunities to connect with Country, and discuss cultural knowledge and values that have shaped these environments for thousands of years.

“We are land managers. This is what we do”, said Taungurung Elder Corrie Leatham.

The training covered topics including the unique features of the Australian Alps and native fauna and flora, as well as discussions on legacy impacts, ongoing threats, and future challenges.

A key focus was the alpine peatlands; Mountain Pygmy-possum; weeds and exotic grasses that threaten Mt Buffalo; and rehabilitation of alpine environments – including best practices and inspiring stories of success.

Ryan Markwick, Project Officer at Biik Environmental*, said: “Building up knowledge on these aspects complements the concept of Reading Country, which combines the traditional cultural knowledge and western science to implement effective management”.

In alpine environments, some species operate over much longer time scales, making it especially challenging to understand and predict their trajectory. An example is how will alpine peatlands respond to the impacts and the management of today? How well land managers make decisions and protect the environment depends significantly on intergenerational learning, knowledge sharing, and connection.

“The skills and knowledge built for Taungurung’s NRM programs is not only a building process to create a professional and high-quality land management service. It creates the ability for Taungurung young people to continually engage with ancestrally significant areas of land,” Mr Markwick said.

Biik field officers have worked with Parks Victoria on the ground to survey and control invasive weeds in remote areas of Mt Buffalo.

“We are aware of the willows’ ability to spread seed across larger distances, and finding well-established plants that may be responsible for the presence of newer shoots in other parts of the park catchment was very satisfying,” Mr Markwick said.

“Caring for Country is all-encompassing. Not just the treatment of invasive species, but moving through Country and reading what makes it healthy – how the movement of plants and animals work; reading the landscape for geomorphological processes; and re-establishing connections to and continuation of ancestral custodianship of Country.”

“We left with a sense of further optimism that momentum can be built upon to allow Traditional Owners to actively manage Country under the ethos of caring for Country.”

This project is supported by the North East Catchment Management Authority through funding from the Australian Government.

* Biik Environmental is the TLaWC natural resource management service delivery enterprise. Biik Environmental is a subsidiary owned by TLaWC and managed as a business by the Biik General Manager. Biik environmental is guided by the TLaWC Cultural Land Management strategy. The works it undertakes align with the leading principles of Healing Country, Reading Country, Caring for Country. Biik is the Taungurung word for Country. The Biik motto, Biik Ganyin Datbu translates as ‘Caring for Our Country’.

“Biik’s Vision is that Taungurung people through Biik Environmental are self-determining in the management of healthy country”, Matthew Burns, Taungurung Land and Waters Council and Biik Environmental CEO (Chief Executive Officer).

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