Indigenous initiatives for a brighter environmental future

As discussed in my previous blog, there are positive steps being taken to facilitate greater Indigenous engagement in environmental initiatives in south-east Queensland. Already this year FFI’s partnership with the Burnett Mary Regional Group (BMRG) has seen some great success. Partners have been working together on innovative programs which aim to better engage the Indigenous community in managing Australia’s precious natural resources.

The Bunya Mountains program which I described in my previous blog, is a good example, with the Murri Ranger program now well established and supported by its Council of Elders. Additionally, with support from the Coca-Cola Australia Foundation, FFI is working with BMRG, the Bunya Mountains Elders Council and the Queensland Education Department to develop curriculum materials aimed to engage the younger generation in environmental sustainability and Indigenous heritage that is specific to these culturally and biologically diverse mountains.

In parallel to these activities, FFI and BMRG have been facilitating the Natural Resource Management Business and Indigenous Employment Forums. These forums are an effort to engage the Indigenous community in natural resource management in other parts of the region, including the Great Sandy Biosphere.  The First forum was held in March 2010, and the second forum was held this month. These forums provide an opportunity for Indigenous organisations to network with each other and industry groups. They provide information about available funding, training and business opportunities; and importantly, the forums enable participation in discussion groups identifying solutions or strategies to gaining and maintaining employment in the environment sector.

Through a series of case studies and workshops, participants have had the opportunity to learn from each other’s successes and challenges. This year we heard about the successes of the Silver Lining Foundation in securing some significant contract work and learnt of their challenges in developing competitive tenders. We learnt lessons from the Bunya Mountains Murri Rangers about strategies they have and are continuing to put in place, both to recruit, but importantly to retain their staff, whose cultural backgrounds can lead to complex social issues which affect their working lives. We also heard about some of the more innovative aspects of a Green Army Program that is working with Indigenous youth to conserve the white throated snapping turtle. These stories and learnings come from Indigenous organisations, who without these forums would have limited ability to communicate, share and celebrate each others’ successes.

The Qantas Foundation has been instrumental in recognising and supporting a larger vision to work towards the development of innovative Indigenous business opportunities in the environment sector. Recognising the importance of these forums, both state and federal government departments (including the Queensland Department of Environment and Resource Management, the Queensland Department of Employment, Economic Development and Innovation, and the Australian government’s Department of Education, Employment and Workplace Relations) have and are continuing to support the continuation of such activity.

As in my previous blog, I again find myself reflecting on the power of partnerships. Through the exploration and development of sustainable Indigenous environmental business initiatives, we find ourselves (as individuals and organisations) working together towards achieving positive long term outcomes both for the environment and for the Indigenous community.