South East Landcare together with Hovells Creek and Boorowa Community Landcare Groups held a two-day Aboriginal cultural heritage workshop for local farmers in April.
Farmers learned how to recognise and record sites on their properties, what the legislation says and how to try and manage and protect the sites in the context of running a farming enterprise.
A really important part of the workshop was learning how to look at the landscape through Aboriginal eyes to understand what it could tell you about what had gone on there.
The program was funded under the NSW Landcare Working Together program, which aims to build engagement between Aboriginal communities and Landcare and to help share traditional land management practices.
South East Landcare co-ordinator Linda Cavanagh said we chose to focus our efforts on a workshop where Aboriginal people could teach farmers about their culture in a supportive and non-threatening context and look at co-operative ways of protecting it on farms.
The workshop was presented by Senior Land Services Officers (Indigenous Communities) Graham Moore and Greg Ingram from South Coast and Central Tablelands Local Land Services, assisted by Orange Local Aboriginal Land Council (LALC) officers Doug Sutherland and Wayne Wright.
Day 1 started with a Welcome to Country and smoking ceremony by local Wiradjuri man Murray Coe, followed by a day of classroom learning then an overnight campover.
On day 2 attendees put their new knowledge into practice, recording sites on a local Wyangala farm for the Department of Environment's Aboriginal Heritage Information Management System.
Farmers also learned some simple management strategies to avoid damage to sites.
The teachers freely shared a whole range of knowledge with attendees, including various uses of plants, how the stone of truth is used to solve disputes and how Aboriginal cultural heritage is a living thing that can talk to you if you learn how to listen.
In the evening around the campfire, Doug Sutherland gave people an insight into Aboriginal stories in the stars and how the position of different constellations at different times of year tell Aboriginal people about food resources and land management.
Feedback from the farmers attending was uniformly enthusiastic and positive.
Comments included: "I felt really comfortable asking what could be considered difficult questions", "A rich two days of real knowledge that opened minds to the complex structures that have enabled Aboriginal communities to continually look after Country" and "I really loved it and I learned a lot."
"It is hoped that this can become an annual event in the Hovells Creek/Boorowa district," Robin Aitken, Hovells Creek Landcare coordinator said.
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