Reef Catchments
Project Officer - Traditional Owner Reference Group (TORG) Liaison & Cultural Burning Reef Catchments (Mackay Whitsunday Isaac) Limited

Are you eligible for Breaking Barriers Category

SUMMARY

With all my jobs, there were barriers and challenges I had to face but those have built me into the strong, proud Indigenous woman I am today.  I've always challenged myself to work in male-dominated industries, to set an example and to break ground to make it easier for young women coming after me. 
I have never been afraid of a challenge, wearing multiple hats, putting on my big girl boots and getting the job done. I know when I start something new it may be rocky initially, but I’ll soon smooth out the edges, and with the support of my fantastic network - which I'm truly grateful for – I’ll get the job done well.

BENEFIT – A description of the benefit of your work to Queensland (max 500 words)

My passion and my calling are to revive and reinstall cultural land management practices across Australia.  Walking in the footsteps of our elders and translating the needs of the country into action gives me a deep sense of satisfaction that I try to share with and encourage young people to gain.  

I am both a direct implementer, a foundation builder and a network creator.  During my nearly seven years as a ranger, I was quickly promoted from complete newbie to head ranger to coordinator where I was responsible for setting the workplan and ensuring all country practices were completed to the satisfaction of local Traditional Owners.  I was directly responsible for reading the country, setting up workplans and taking care of country through prescribed, cultural burning, weed and feral management.  

We were the first Indigenous group to use drone technology to investigate pest incursions and erosion.  During my term as a ranger our group won the 2018 Rio Tinto Indigenous Land Management Award (https://landcareaustralia.org.au/project/rio-tinto-indigenous-land-management-award/ ) and I/ my team were featured in the Bunya Mountains Murri Rangers 2021 video (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=B5kugGr3d-c ) and the 2016 Stepping Up Video (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=iKoAiNW4DP4 )

I have conducted a number of public talks to university students and have recently presented at an international annual forum on wildfire management (in British Columbia, Canada) about preventing wildfires through implementing cultural burning practices, reading land, and supporting our more fragile endemic plants to help them compete with invasive feral plants.  I have been asked to present in person at the next (annual) forum.

When I decided it was time for a new challenge, I moved to Mackay to take on my current role at Reef Catchments.  I am currently responsible for guiding seven language groups on how to re-incorporate Traditional Ecological Knowledge (TEK) into activities, liaising and guiding co-workers, stakeholders and partnering agencies in appropriate cultural heritage practices and directly training several Traditional Owners in skills to help them realise their dreams of becoming a ranger.

ROLE MODEL – Why do you think you are a good role model for women and girls aspiring to work in STEM? (max 500 words)
Like so many kids coming out of high school, I had no idea what I wanted to do.  I ended up jumping into a pastoral traineeship with Santos oil and gas company.  Within two years there I completed my Cert III in Agriculture and decided to try something new. I took on contract fencing and water point maintenance work but wanted more. 
 
My father alerted me to an opportunity to become an Indigenous ranger.  Despite having no knowledge of what a ranger actually does, as I took a chance, put myself out there, applied for the role and crossed my fingers.  Happily, my application was successful   
 
I was their first female ranger in seven years.  I was a little daunted as I knew I would have to lead the charge to make up for traditional womens land management responsibilities but I was up for it.  Within two years I was promoted to head ranger (at the age of 22) and a year after that I was promoted to acting ranger coordinator. All these promotions were massive achievements, but also massive new responsibilities. I scrambled to keep the project afloat, hit milestones and engage and involve the local Traditional Owners and rebuild the team despite the fact my team would be headhunted into new roles as soon as they were finished training.
 
While I was running the crew, I quickly realised that my team needed support in gaining formal qualifications to make them more effective and respected rangers.  I initially worked through the Queensland Parks and Wildlife Services ranger requirements and then built on additional modules to reflect the particular needs of the Bunya Murri country.  I both organised and directly facilitated and delivered the training to 14 rangers, getting them up to full employment qualifications.  Now my crew are mentoring the next generation of junior rangers to gain the necessary skills, confidence and commitment to take on a ranger group.  

After a few years it was time for a new challenge and so I moved to Mackay to lead the efforts to establish and deliver cultural burning in the Mackay Whitsunday Isaac (MWI) region. For the past year I have concentrated my efforts on rebuilding a strong foundation and network between the seven Traditional Language groups of the area.  I work with and across all generations to help them articulate and action their priorities for themselves, their country and their future. 
 
ENGAGEMENT – Describe any STEM promotion or engagement activities that you have undertaken, including both scientific and non-scientific audiences, particularly with women and girls (maximum 500 words)

I am driven by these feelings that run deep in my blood and my connection with country and my people. My main achievement was to become a positive role model for my and the broader Indigenous community.  I work to support the community to grow stronger and encourage young Indigenous women to take on jobs that will enable them to work on country, teach, and gain knowledge. 
Becoming an Indigenous ranger has helped me in so many ways, especially being a young Indigenous person not sure of what options were available to me.  Being a ranger meant I became responsible to learn from and be guided by elders, to learn about and share their Traditional Ecological Knowledge (TEK) and cultural activities, with my coworkers and then coming back and sharing the results with the elders and their young family members and the larger community.  
 
I work to train and empower Traditional Owners to help them identify and secure their dream job.  I feel a huge sense of accomplishment when I help the young ones read and reconnect to country.  Seeing the smile on the young ones' faces while inspiring and connecting lost individuals with their Aboriginality gives me an unmatchable sense of pride and accomplishment. 
 
During my last years as ranger coordinator, I put special focus on working with junior rangers.  A number of these kids were disengaged from formal learning and would act out in the classroom would respond, and gain calmness and pride when they were out learning on country.  We started with day trips but due to the popularity and the strong interest from the kids and the schools we expanded the program to overnight trips and broadened the range of activities (I would lead women’s business trips and my male rangers would lead the young men to learn about traditional male practices.  We worked with upwards of 30-40 kids in the program.  We also started delivering programs in the local youth correctional facility to bring the country to them.

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