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Bushfire recovery crew standing in the bush with high vis shirts on and tall trees in the background, ferns in the for ground

A new project from Gunaikurnai Land and Waters Aboriginal Corporation (GLaWAC) is creating employment opportunities for young people following last summer's bushfires.

GLaWAC recognises Gunaikurnai people cannot be healthy when Country is sick, and the project focuses on increasing community involvement in bushfire recovery.

There are four components to the project, all happening at various stages. Land monitoring works have commenced, as has the project’s employment program, to get people back out on Country.

Revegetation work has begun, and the community cultural healing and engagement events have had to be delayed due to COVID-19 restrictions.

Cultural research and surveys by GLaWAC’s cultural heritage team have also commenced.

Roger Fenwick, CEO of GLaWAC says Aboriginal self-determination in the bushfire recovery space is about community making a difference and feeling like they are. Roger says:

“To me, it’s important to have community connected to the decision-making process and to be able to achieve an outcome. That also comes with responsibility.”

GLaWAC’s young Bushfire Recovery Crew are excited to be connecting with their culture and learning about the land. The project is helping them connect to their cultural roots and Country to learn more about managing biodiversity for cultural values. And importantly, it’s helping healing begin.

Roger says that they have been able to find Potoroos again.

“We didn’t think we’d find them. That’s a good sign because it means the country is healing.”

This project is building on collaborative approaches. The newly recruited young bushfire crew is working with ecologists to manage biodiversity in line with cultural values. Using their abilities to read Country, they are learning new monitoring techniques and expanding their awareness of different landscape to assist in the healing process.

The stories and memories from different parts of the burnt landscape have created a natural history knowledge and literacy that is now able to be recorded using cultural and scientific techniques. This will enable GLaWAC to maintain Gunaikurnai environmental and cultural values by deciding how and when to manage Country. The project is creating employment opportunities for young people as well as allowing them to get out on Country and work in the bush.

“I’m very proud of the efforts and skills of our staff and the advice our community leaders have made in recovering from both COVID-19 and the bushfires. I am proud of GLaWAC achieving positive outcomes for future generations."

Reviewed 25 August 2021