Djabugay man calls for unified approach in protecting Wet Tropics

After a significant climate forum in Cairns last month, a Djabugay Traditional Owner is speaking out about the importance of a whole-of-community response to climate change.

Speaking at the Creating our Climate Future forum in March, Barry Hunter said while the forum brought together a range of perspectives, it also brought a common interest – the Wet Tropics of Queensland.

“It’s because it’s beautiful and it’s an amazing place. We all know its environmental significance is important on a global scale and it’s these reasons that we need to come together,” Hunter said.

Organised by the Wet Tropics Management Authority (WTMA), the forum was the first time leaders from natural resource management, business, all levels of government, tourism, and the youth and conservation sectors had gathered together to discuss climate change’s effect on the World Heritage-listed area.

As part of the WTMA’s climate change plan for the area, the Authority is assembling a community of practice they hope will become a recognised world leader in the climate-responsive, adaptive management of a World Heritage Area.

To bring such a group together in an integrated approach, the WTMA plans to address:

  • Traditional fire management of World Heritage rainforests
  • The need for a united voice to raise awareness and increase funding
  • Best practice opportunities in a more sustainable, circular economy
  • Water security through using more sustainable irrigation practices.

As has been tirelessly pointed out by Traditional Owners across Australia during the country’s worst fire season, Hunter said traditional knowledge holds valuable lessons about land management going forward.

“We have indicator species that tell us a story and they’ve told us a story for a long time about this environment, about what’s happening and what’s changing,” Hunter said.

“This is the knowledge basis we need to start from. Our indicator species aren’t much different to science or just general observation. Everyone is seeing how things are changing – whether it’s differences in seasons and the way it’s affecting us, people already acknowledge that.”

Sticking to his call for integration and collaboration, Hunter said one way of environmental management doesn’t hold all the solutions.

“It’s looking at these range of indicators and turning them into a methodology to get some rigour behind this,” he said.

“One system doesn’t have all the answers and we’ve seen that, and we acknowledge that as well.”

A board director at Terrain Natural Resource Management, Hunter is also a member of the Traditional Owner Leadership Group (TOLG) – a group put together in 2017 to refresh the agreement on Wet Tropics management between the Queensland Government and the Rainforest Aboriginal People.

For Hunter, it’s not about people, it’s about Country.

“We should turn it around and make it about Country, and this becomes a powerful tool when I ask people what they want to say to Country: it’s like talking to a person,” Hunter said.

“Everyone experiences it when they walk out on Country, when you’ve been there. So, what is it you want to say?”

By Hannah Cross

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