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Announcements and Community News

Carbon Farming could benefit both Budjiti Community and Country

By | Announcements and Community News

Published by ABC News on 1 April 2019.

The demand for carbon farming projects is growing in south-west Queensland with one Indigenous group looking to the initiative to regenerate the bush.

The Budjiti Aboriginal Corporation has been working with carbon farming developer Climate Friendly to give consent to property owners in the Paroo Shire Council region looking to start projects.

But the group has also started to look at its own projects in the region.

“We’re looking at buying a property near Thargomindah,” Budjiti elder Phil Eulo said.

“It’s got carbon farming on it and we’d like to keep it growing and expand the mapped-out area and maybe look at putting some cattle on.”

Return of traditional medicines and bush tucker

In 2015, the Budjiti people received native title of the Paroo River region, which spans far west New South Wales and over the border into Queensland.

Making the nearly 12-hour journey from Maitland, NSW, Mr Eulo said investing in carbon farming projects would see the return of traditional bush tucker.

“We’ve lost a lot of our native trees, our bush tucker trees, our medicine bush, our fruit trees,” Mr Eulo said. “They’re all disappearing and they’re only in a few selective areas on our country now. We want to see them all come back across the determination [native title] area.”

Mr Eulo said he was worried about the condition of the region since the introduction of livestock.

“They flog the country with sheep, they flog the country with cattle. What do you expect to see now the country is in the bloody dire straits at the moment?” Mr Eulo said. “What we all need now is rain.”

Second income in drought

The Paroo Shire has been drought-declared for six years and graziers in this region often push over mulga trees native to the area to help feed cattle in dry times.

These trees are now being used for carbon farming in a process known as human-induced regeneration, where blocks of land are left to grow to create living carbon stores.

Mr Eulo believes there is another way to take care of livestock and continue to expand carbon farming projects.

“You could chop branches off it to feed the animals. They used to do it when I was a kid,” he said. “I climbed trees to feed animals in droughts in the 60s. They don’t have to knock trees over.”

“We want to see these trees growing back on our country in all the farms that are in the determination area. We have to work together now. It should have been working together 100 years ago.”

Executive manager for Climate Friendly Josh Harris said western Queensland was a “hot bed of action” for projects.

“In western Queensland it’s roughly about 200 projects but Australia wide it’s 700,” Mr Harris said.

“In terms of financial value there’s been about $500 million in carbon contracts signed and so far there’s been close to $100 million in carbon income that has come into the region.”

“From an environmental perspective there’s been about 10 million carbon credits issued so far. That’s roughly the carbon emissions of half a million people or about 2 million cars off the road.”

Climate policy

Vegetation is measured for carbon content by cutting a tree down, measuring its ‘wet weight’ and then drying the tree to measure its carbon content, Mr Harris said.

“That’s been done over a whole range of species in different soil types with the CSIRO, ANU, other universities and the government,” he said. “And the government has been able to build carbon models based on that data, so those carbon models will provide an average carbon type [and] average carbon levels per species as that species grows.”

Across Australia carbon farming has reduced about 60 million tonnes of carbon emissions, which is close to 10 per cent of the country’s total emissions.

“And a lot of that activity is in western Queensland,” Mr Harris said.

[The featured image is taken from the original ABC News story].

Joy as lost artefacts rightfully returned

By | Announcements and Community News

First published by the National Indigenous Times on 18 April 2018.

Precious Aboriginal artefacts estimated to be hundreds of years old have been returned to the traditional Budjiti owners in north-western New South Wales after having been used as garden ornaments.

Budjiti elder Phil Eulo said the return of about 20 plates, grinding stones, axes and message sticks on Tuesday was cause for celebration for his people.

The artefacts were discovered by not-for-profit conservation group Bush Heritage when it took on management of the 14,000ha Murray-Darling Basin property, Naree Station, which it does in consultation with the Budjiti people.

The artefacts had been used as ornaments at the homestead gardens of the former pastoral property, Bush Heritage’s Aboriginal Engagement Officer Sarah Eccles said.

They were collected up and stored for return to the traditional owners when Bush Heritage took over.

A special ceremony attended by about 40 Budjiti people was held to smoke away the bad spirits and welcome the good spirits and to pay respect to the ancestors at Naree.

The artefacts were returned to a special place chosen by the Budjiti people.

Mr Eulo said he hoped a small display cage could be built around them so that animals would not disturb them and so that children could visit the site and learn about their importance.

He said the Budjiti people would also like to know the secrets of the message sticks — their language has all but been wiped out, with his Aunty Ruby, 83, being the only one who can speak a few words.

However, they hold hope that it can be revived through archived records and other sources.

“Back in the ’50s when I was growing up our elders were not allowed to teach us anything about our culture,” Mr Eulo, 70, said.

“I felt like it wasn’t the right thing to do today, me talking in English, to my people.

“But it’s all good. We’ll pick up the language. We’ve got to chase that down. It’s got to be somewhere in the archive.

“Aunty Ruby is the eldest in my family, she’s the only one left, she knows a few words of just about animals and bush foods and stuff like that.”

The ancestral lands of the Budjiti people span two states along the Paroo River from far western NSW and over the border into Queensland.

‘It was the greatest thing’: Jubilation at return of Indigenous artifacts

By | Announcements and Community News

First published by The Guardian on 23 April 2018.

Repatriation rights a wrong for the Budjiti, but there are many more displaced objects.

When Dave and Sue Akers became caretakers of Naree Station Reserve, a remote parcel of land about two hours up a dirt road out the back of Bourke, they came across some distressing garden ornaments.

At some point over the land’s post-colonisation history, the station owners had gathered Indigenous artefacts from across the 14,400 hectares, and brought them to the homestead.

“Some were just strewn around the paddock,” says Dave Akers. “We thought that’s not right, they need to be treated better than that.”

Naree is on Budjiti country, and is managed as a partnership between environmental NGO Bush Heritage and traditional owners like Budjiti elder Phil Eulo.

“It was the greatest thing that ever happened,” recalls Eulo. “We’ve got a grinding plate, a stone axe, a couple of tools, and a grinding stone, and message sticks – they’re soft white material, not from around here.

“The old people used to mark them when they were going through someone else’s territory and send a scout ahead of them with this stick, to show the tribe there and get permission.”

Bush Heritage bought Naree, in far northwest New South Wales, in 2012 to preserve the ecologically significant landscape – what it says is the healthiest floodplain system in the Murray Darling Basin. The reserve – one of 44 owned by Bush Heritage across Australia – offers protection for several bird species, including the brolga.

The organisation has 24 Aboriginal partnerships and manages or assists the management of 8.86m hectares.

“Part of our role with Bush Heritage is to develop a relationship with the traditional owners in the area and that was still in its infancy when we came,” Akers tells Guardian Australia.

“Gradually we spent time with the people and got to know them and [Sue] floated the idea of repatriating the artefacts to them, put them somewhere of their choosing.”

Eulo began walking the rivers searching for an appropriate ancestral campsite, eventually deciding on a raised sand island, surrounded by golden-barked Yapunyah trees, with old hearths visible under the dust.

Today, more than 30 members of his family have come to the place he found, including his Aunty Ruby, an elder of the Budjiti people who was born out here.

“I’m glad when these things go back, because we don’t move them,” says Aunty Ruby. “We’re not allowed to keep them.”

Under NSW law it’s an offence to cause harm to Aboriginal cultural heritage, which includes knowingly moving objects from sites.

If a member of the public finds any artefacts – which do not include handicrafts created for sale – they are encouraged to report the artefact and its location to the Office of Environment and Heritage.

A spokesman said the department had recently commenced proceedings against a Northern Rivers council, but didn’t provide details on the breach or on any repatriations, which were conducted on a case-by-case basis with Aboriginal communities.

It’s midday at Naree’s guest quarters and there’s a flurry of activity as the teenagers practise their dance moves, parents gather the kids together and everyone piles into cars and buses.

Eulo in his red ute leads the convoy to the site, where he stands by a fire, waiting for it to burn down a little so he can start the smoking ceremony and send the family members out towards a medicine tree in the clearing.

Bruce Shillingsworth leads the young boys in a traditional dance to open the ceremony. Eulo holds each artefact aloft, and describes its use and possible history.

“This blue stone is not from around here, it was probably traded,” he says of one. Nearly every family member is handed an artefact to place beneath the tree.

Eulo doesn’t know how old they are, and a dating process with a university might be on the horizon.

“They’re from our ancestors, put it that way,” he tells Guardian Australia outside the ceremony.

“On this property here, we haven’t surveyed the whole of it yet but from what we found so far I’m sure there’s others here.”

The repatriation ceremony – Bush Heritage’s first under an Aboriginal partnership – is “incredibly significant”, says Aboriginal partnerships officer Sarah Eccles.

“This has always been Budjiti country and their management of this country for hundreds to thousands of generations. What we saw today with the artefacts is a physical reminder of that land management,” she says.

“It’s hugely significant that if we’re able to work alongside Bujditi, and provide the opportunity for them to have much stronger decision-making over their country and say over what actually happens.”

The return of these artefacts rights a wrong for the Budjiti, but it’s likely there are many more displaced. Cultural artefacts of the Budjiti or indeed any First Nations people could well be sitting in a garden, a shed, or on a shelf, out of place.

Guardian Australia has been told – and has confirmed it by calling a few vendors – that they regularly pop up at farm clearance sales.

Eulo is confident the artefacts are safe on Naree, and will be respected for what they are and where they are, by Bush Heritage and the caretakers that follow the Akers after they leave this year.

“We’ve thought a lot about it and they’re doing the right thing working with us and working together. Putting the artefacts back, if we find new ones, we leave them there where they are,” he says.

“That’s what the elders told me, you don’t pick it up, don’t touch it. If it’s in the road of something you can shift it, hide it somewhere. If it’s in a safe place … leave it. It’s been a really lovely journey. Let’s keep doing it, I reckon.”