Today we embarked on our three day fieldtrip to the BMWHA and our first stop was the Yellomundee Regional Park where we talked to Park Ranger – Paul Glass, Aboriginal Cultural Heritage Officer – Dennis Barker and Area Manager, Hawkesbury region, Parks & Wildlife – Glenn Meade about the challenges involved in the management of the BMWHA. It was clear from the talks that it was important to keep an open mind when dealing with the competing interests of different groups, in particular when these may conflict with your own personal values. The role of these staff seemed to fill many hats as a advisor, mediator and educator. The example of pig hunters was brought up and despite the removal of feral pigs each by NPWS staff, these hunters would return each year and release more pigs back into the wild to hunt again the following year. The fines or imprisonment of these groups did little to change their behaviour so educating them about the problems with the pigs seemed to be fundamental, however it was questionable as to how successful this has been as there are no statistics on how many people have been identified as being the culprits, this again comes down to the challenges involved in park management. From the talk it was clear to see the role that education has in changing the behaviour of society and we probably do not do enough environmental education amongst our future generations these days to ensure they have sufficient knowledge on its importance.
Following the talk, we had an opportunity to see areas of land that had been cleared using cultural burning and the approaches undertaken using cultural or modern methods. The cultural burn was almost a direct contrast to modern methods, as this used direct knowledge of the land and ‘cool’ fires to clear away the dead groundcover which provided opportunities for native species to grow and recover but did no damage to the trees which was evident by the lack of burning along the trunks of the trees. However it was sad to hear that a significant amount of the aboriginal knowledge such as that of the fire regimes and cultural burning has been lost altogether and an aboriginal elder from outside the area came to provide guidance when the cultural burning was undertaken in the park.
In the afternoon we has a guided walk of Lyrebird Dell by Discovery Ranger – Clive Barker and it was interesting to hear an alternative view on the cultural burning activities from the mornings activities. This alternative viewpoint highlighted both the complexities involved in managing these issues, as well as the loss of aboriginal knowledge. It was interesting to hear Clive’s perspectives on how high frequency cultural burns in the blue mountains would have resulted in a reduction in biodiversity as many of the species of flora in the mountains can take many years before they reproduce. He pointed out that cultural burning in the lower lying areas of land to encourage the growth of grasses and shrubs would have helped to protected aboriginal communities from wildfire, as well as encouraging animals to return to an area to feed upon the native grass growth and would have been hunted for food. However with a lack of historical knowledge it is hard to know what would have taken place.
Following the walk, we had an opportunity to hear the perspectives of the aboriginal community and it was interesting to note that the way in which the aboriginals lived on the land was very sustainable and follow many of the aims we are trying to achieve in our society today and there is a lot we can learn. I thought it was a beautiful concept that aboriginal communities lived a life without borders, fences did not exist until European settlement. It was clear that we all have an important role in ending discrimination within our communities and empowering people to take pride in their communities and regain their history, heritage and cultural identity. The importance of elders as a source of knowledge and inspiration was also discussed and how ‘age’ was not a factor in determining whether you became an elder, but rather what you have contributed was to your community.