The Cassowary Awards acknowledge Rainforest Aboriginal people’s custodianship of the Wet Tropics over thousands of years, says a former winner.
The Wet Tropics Management Authority today announced nominees for the People. Country. Culture. category in its upcoming Cassowary Awards in Cairns.
Rainforest Aboriginal people from across the Wet Tropics World Heritage Area were nominated for an array of achievements including land management, cultural knowledge recording and cross-cultural education.
Jabalbina Aboriginal Corporation Rangers, based in Mossman, Ayton and Shiptons Flat near Rossville, received the award in 2016. Kuku Yalanji Traditional Owner and Jabalbina Ranger Coordinator Phillip Minniecon said it provided a platform for the rangers to share and expand on their work.
“The Cassowary Award helped to raise awareness of the important work the Jabalbina Rangers have been doing for a number of years to protect our culture and country in the Wet Tropics,” he said.
“The Yalanji people have been custodians of the Wet Tropics for thousands of years, so it was great to see our work managing Bubu and Jalun—land and sea country— recognised.”
Queensland Environment Minister and proud Quandamooka woman Leeanne Enoch congratulated all of the nominees in this year’s field.
Ms Enoch also has a strong connection to the area through her role as the Government Champion for the community of Wujal Wujal.
“Congratulations to all nominees – it is encouraging to see Rainforest First Nations people across the Wet Tropics being recognised for their work in preserving culture and country,” Ms Enoch said.
“This World Heritage landscape we value so much today is the result of the stewardship of Rainforest First Nations people, who have been present in these lands for over thousands of generations.
“I am also delighted to note the diverse range of nominations in this category, and I commend all nominees on their leadership and achievements.”
A full list of nominees is included below. Recipients will be announced at the Wet Tropics Management Authority’s Cassowary Awards on 10 March at Tjapukai Aboriginal Cultural Park in Cairns.
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Recognising initiatives of Rainforest Aboriginal people throughout the Wet Tropics World Heritage Area, including enterprise development and innovation, commitment to looking after their country, and interpretation and presentation of the cultural and natural values of the Area.
Djunbunji Land and Sea Program. Established by the Mandingalbay Yidinji Peoples in 2010, this program has played a key role in environmental management of the area around Grey Peaks National Park, near Yarrabah. It has implemented a traditional knowledge recording project and seasonal cultural heritage activities; established a plant nursery to assist revegetation of the Indigenous Protected Area; and collaborated in the rehabilitation of the East Trinity Environmental Reserve which will one day provide a world-class wetland reserve on Cairns’ doorstep.
Wujal Wujal Shire Aboriginal Council. Wujal Wujal Shire Aboriginal Council has partnered with the State Library of Queensland in order to build an online system to record, gather and safeguard the Eastern Kuku Yalanji cultural heritage. In addition to building community capacity through training opportunities, the project has fostered a community sense of belonging and identity, supporting and highlighting the importance of Bama culture, history and language.
Marilyn Wallace. Senior Kuku Nyungkal woman and Traditional Owner of rainforest country south of Cooktown, Marilyn Wallace co-founded Bana Yarralji Aboriginal Ranger Service and Bana Yarralji Ltd, an Aboriginal sustainable social enterprise, in 2006. A qualified teacher, Marilyn focusses on cross-cultural education, hosting students, researchers and cultural groups, and also assists Kuku Nyungkal people returning to country via employment opportunities and community development.
Gavin Singleton. Gavin is a leading young Yirrganydji and Djabugay Traditional Owner. As project officer and Director of Dawul Wuru Aboriginal Corporation he has played a major role in building the capacity of Yirrganydji Traditional Owners to care for their land and sea country in the area between Cairns and Port Douglas. His work has included clean-up and revegetation activities and involvement in the Cairns Turtle Rehabilitation Centre and Dawul Wuru’s crocodile management.
Girringun Aboriginal Rangers. Girringun Aboriginal Corporation is an Indigenous organisation which represents nine distinct clan groups in the Wet Tropics. Since its inception in 2010, Girringun Aboriginal Rangers have completed numerous projects including the Tame the Flame project, targeting the re-introduction of traditional fire regimes to restore woody savanna eucalyptus forest habitats which support the critically endangered mahogany glider.