Meet our Cultural Ambassadors

Nature needs us, and we need nature. Traditional Owners have always known this and always will. Our Traditional Owners have a deep and rich cultural knowledge of the land, and the lessons they can teach us about caring for and healing Country are as relevant today as they’ve always been.

We are honoured to introduce you to our Victoria Nature Festival 2022 cultural ambassadors Kayla Baksh and Stephen Korp.

Our cultural ambassadors provide guidance on the Victoria Nature Festival and will appear in videos as part of the festival, sharing how they connect with, care for and heal Country in their lives and with their communities.

Kayla Baksh

Nature Festival 2022 ambassador, Kayla Baksh

I am a proud Dja Dja Wurrung, Gunai Kurnai, Yorta Yorta woman who lives on Yorta Yorta Country and works on Dja Dja Wurrung Country.

I’ve been with the Department of Environment, Land, Water and Planning (DELWP) as project officer for three years and work in the Land Management Traditional Owner Agreements space. Through DELWP, I’ve completed a General Fire Fighter course and have been involved in cultural burning. I’ve also worked casually for the past four years with Djarra Aboriginal Corporation and Djandak – the commercial arm of Djarra – on projects including Healthy Coliban Catchment and the Victorian Re-vegetation Review- Right Plant, Right Way.

I love being out on Country, doing what I can to heal Country and its people. I do this by re-vegetating native plant species, taking part in cultural dance ceremonies, and most importantly being with family and my people, from babies to elders, to share knowledge because we all learn from each other.

Stephen Korp

Nature Festival 2022 ambassador, Stephen Korp

I’m a proud Wamba Wemba Roy Stewart connected, and Wurundjeri Peter Hunter connected man.

I was born on Wurundjeri Country, but soon moved up to Wamba Wemba Country and spent most of my childhood in a small town called Swan Hill.

I started working with DELWP in 2006 as a firefighter and travelled around the state on different Countries. That year I was involved in the Mount Lubra bushfire in the Grampians. I still remember it because it was my first big fire.

Over time, I’ve worked in other roles in the department, including stints as a Cultural Heritage Adviser, Traditional Owner Agreement Adviser and now as an Aboriginal Partnerships Adviser. I really enjoy this role because it is so important to give Traditional Owners a say and a voice as partners.

Giving back to my community is important to me, and outside of work, I’m a director on the board of Aboriginal Health Organisation and a Local Education Working Group.

Self-Determination Reform Strategy

Kayla and Stephen were selected following recommendations from DELWP’s First Peoples’ Self-Determination Division. This division leads DELWP’s Pupangarli marnmarnepu also known as the Self-Determination Reform Strategy.

Pupangarli marnmarnepu ‘owning our future’ (Wadi Wadi and Mutti Mutti language) embodies what it means for Traditional Owners to be self-determining. We are aiming towards a future where the concept of pupangarli marnmarnepu is embedded, so that Victoria’s First Peoples are in control of their own future.

Pupangarli marnmarnepu is a 5-year roadmap that enables self-determination at DELWP by fostering an environment that honours the rights and dignity of Traditional Owners and Aboriginal Victorians.