Iconic journey, that’s the only way to describe travelling up the Gibb River Road in April after a stonker (big) wet season. The road, a single bush track with green grass creeping up to its edges, is waiting to be graded or mowed down by tourists. The intersecting ranges are broken up by full waterways lined with paperbarks and Pandanus. We are travelling through Wilinggin Country, home of the Ngarinyin people.
Returning to Gibb River Station after many years away was like travelling home, the memories returning from previous work developing the Wilinggin Healthy Country Plan back in 2012.
It must be fate or other forces that enabled me to travel back in 2021 with Rachel Treacy (Wilinggin Healthy Country Project Officer) and joined by Luke Russ (Fire Project Office), Jake Charters (Ranger Coordinator) and Peter Saunders (Business Development Manager) .
My mission, to help train the new land management team in Healthy Country Planning in preparation for the Wilinggin Healthy Country Planning Review scheduled for 2022.
Being privy to some of the great work achieved through their Healthy Country Plan and the challenges that come with staff turnover and working across a large & remote area, the CM team chose this project to support at no cost (pro bono) as part of our Social Enterprise model.
So, I approached Wilinggin Aboriginal Corporation (WAC) to offer some pro bono support, they agreed and we designed a process that would work for them.
Using the current plan as a talking point we were able to go through each of the key steps in developing and/or reviewing a Healthy Country Plan. Modules included Vision, Scope, Targets & Health, Threats (Problems and Causes), Situational Analysis, Road Maps and Monitoring. Like most things it’s not until you do it, that you fully understand it, so we pulled out the coloured post it notes and went for it.
In addition to the HCP training the week allowed for some rare space for the team to physically be together. It was an opportunity to have some focused planning and review time and to have frank and honest discussions on the implementation of the plan and lessons learned going forward. Mixing classroom time up with a field trip to Jignarrun (Barnett River Gorge) and having Jake’s (Ranger Coordinator) special Peri Peri chicken also enhanced the week's learnings.
A key principle of Healthy Country Planning is that ‘’the appropriate place to talk about country is on country’’. Being together on Gibb River Station, in Ngallagunda community allowed for our discussions, and presence, to have a lot more meaning. Being on country made us think about the social, economic, cultural and environmental framework which the plan seeks to communicate and help community and the program navigate.
Wilinggin Aboriginal Corporation like so many groups are building capacity in how to operationalise, or action good plans. Building skills and confidence in reviewing and adapting their plan is central to maintenance of program momentum, management of threats to values and achievement of their goals.