Mentee – Matt King – Warrnambool and District Landcare Facilitator
Mentor – Adam Barber – Melbourne Water River Health Specialist
The Maam Reserve Wetland, was a poorly understood wetland facing urban encroachment. Although a flora study had been conducted in 2011 by Geoff Carr, little has been documented on its hydrology, faunal composition or cultural history.
Following a successful Landcare grant application a number of goals emerged;
- To undertake a detailed fauna survey (nearing completion)
- To engage the local Traditional Owners and conduct ethnographic research to better understand the site’s cultural importance.
- To engage experts and land managers to discuss threats and opportunities at the site and land management activities i.e. weed treatment and revegetation
- To better understand the hydrology, water quality and aquatic species.
Adam came to site to participate in a survey and a meeting of the minds with fellow environmental specialists, traditional owners and land managers.
Throughout the program we regularly liaised and discussed ideas and the opportunities and challenges. We both uncovered historical maps revealing the vegetation and adjoining land uses over time to better understand the history of the reserve.
The ‘Meeting of the Minds’ was a powerful day with Traditional Owners engaging with the site through a smoking ceremony- probably the first one since settlement! People spoke freely and the children present were amazed at the creatures that Adam pulled from the water to examine. The Southern Pygmy Perch was recorded and all participants got to see this beautiful fish species. It was a fantastic day.
Since that day the fauna survey being conducted has recorded the presence of the White Footed Dunnart in the reserve, a first record for the Warrnambool area.
What did you gain personally?
For me participating in the Twinning program has given me far greater confidence in my abilities as a facilitator and agent for change in the Natural Resources sector. It was great to have the guidance of a really well versed professional such as Adam to guide me through and suggest different approaches to problem solving. It has also been great to meet so many diverse people, all with passion for our natural environment and its sustainability. The inclusion of discussions and forums around Indigenous land management and engagement has also been a highlight.
I really enjoyed getting to know people from the broader industry. We often work in our little silos, so the field trips and workshops that are part of the Twinning Program were great at getting to know my colleagues from other waterway management organisations. From some of the conversations we have had, new connection have been made between normally exclusive parts of the water industry.
This was also a fantastic opportunity to get to know a great leader in our industry, Siwan Lovett. You are inspirational Siwan. Siwan showed us all the importance of finding the nexus between social ecology and natural resource management. Thanks for being part of this and sharing your insights and knowledge with us!
Matt was a great mentee. His passion for what he does is what immediately stands out about Matt. He is very hands on and practical in his approach, which saw Matt literally diving in to the Maam to discover it’s secrets. He also has fantastic knowledge, personal connections and insights in to local indigenous history of the area, which he also has a passion for.
I also enjoyed getting to know a part of Victoria that I haven’t spent a lot of time in previously. Victoria’s western basalt plains around Warrnambool and the hills surrounding it are amazing. Gaining insight on local cultural knowledge lead to a deeper level of understanding, and given Matt’s local knowledge, this was something he was able to share; and I’d like to thank Matt for this.
Learning about the local Gunditjmara people deepened my connection to this area, which triggered a family camping trip to share both Budj Bimm and the Lower Glenelg National Park with my young family. These are amazing places where you can really feel the spirit of the land.
The cultural knowledge around how the landscape formed and how creative and resourceful the local indigenous people are, and what they achieved is one of the most amazing traditional owner stories of Victoria, if not Australia and I would encourage everyone to get to know it, as it is a story to be shared.
This has left me with one of the most important messages which the program was trying to imbed in us all- our WHY. As you can see above, my why is connecting and caring for the natural environment and sharing that history and knowledge with my partner and kids.
So I thank you Twinning for the opportunity to re-connect to my WHY and help others do the same.