Being granted a permanent home base in St George will be a game changer for the Queensland Murray Darling Catchment Ltd (QMDCL), enabling the group to better care for country and bring its community together to strengthen culture.
QMDCL represents eight Traditional Owner groups and cares for 101,177 km2 of country across the nationally significant Northern Murray-Darling Basin catchment in Queensland.
The group has been granted new premises in St George by the Indigenous Land and Sea Corporation (ILSC), a corporate Commonwealth entity which acquires and returns country for the benefit of Indigenous Australians.
The property includes a workshop-sized shed, camp kitchen, ablution blocks and basic accommodation, with plans to build an outdoor area for a yarning circle and new training facilities.
The new home base will enable the group to run its successful ranger program more efficiently, as well as several programs including a youth engagement program.
“Having a central hub where our Elders and young people can come together is so important for us and enables our Elders to pass down their cultural knowledge and practices,” said QMDCL CEO Chandel Eyre.
“It’s also really important for our young people to see our rangers at work, to understand what they do and have pride in the role we all play in caring for country, so they have something to aspire to.
“Having this property will enable us to expand our programs and services, apply for grants to run more programs and to work with both government and non-government agencies collaboratively on projects to benefit the community.”
Ms Eyre said the organisation had plans to run a program for young people disengaged from school, and a rehabilitation program for those who come into contact with the criminal justice system.
Head of the QMDCL ranger program William Taylor said the new premises would make a huge difference for his 14-person ranger team, which had previously been working out of a sea container.
“Having a property where we can do maintenance on equipment, make traditional tools, create a bush tucker garden and build facilities to train our new rangers on site will all make a huge difference to running our ranger program,” he said.
“It will also help with our planning and communication on projects like our carp trapping program, water sampling, fire management and insect surveillance, which are all important for monitoring the overall health of the Murray-Darling.
“We use our innate knowledge of country passed down to us from our old people and combine that with new technology such as an App that’s been designed for us to record data on country so we can share this knowledge.”
Indigenous Land and Sea Corporation Group CEO Joe Morrison said caring for waterways is of particular importance in Aboriginal society.
“Aboriginal people are very aware that caring for water sources on country is the key to survival, and the health of the Murray Darling is essential not only to them, but to the many communities that surround it.
“Indigenous people have a unique and ancient understanding of this system, and so play an important role in working collaboratively to ensure its future health.
“The ILSC is proud to have played a role in QMDCL securing their own permanent property to support their invaluable work caring for country.”
The handing over of the property was celebrated with an event on March 30, which included a Welcome to Country and music performance and was attended by community groups, Traditional Owners, the ILSC and members of the local council including the Balonne Shire Mayor.