A large area of land in north-west Tasmania has been returned to the local Aboriginal community thanks to a donation from the founder of travel website Wotif. See Starfish’s latest newspost for more details.
The Dja Dja Wurrung Clans Aboriginal Corporation are taking an active role in the management of six state and national parks and reserves which are within the Country which was returned to the Dja Dja Wurrung people in a recognition agreement in 2013.
The Dhelkunya Dja Land Management Board, will manage the parks and reserves in partnership with Parks Victoria. They have appointed CSIRO to lead the creation of a Joint Management Plan, which will have Dja Dja Wurrung’s 20-year vision for people (Jaara) and country (Djanderk) at its centre.
Graham Atkinson, chairperson of the board, who was instrumental in negotiating recognition of traditional ownership with the state government says:
“Our Country Plan acknowledges that we must transmit our cultural heritage to younger generations. The Dja Dja Wurrung people have kept their connection to country alive through oral history, as well as through researching historical publications written at the time of European settlement.”
Dr Ro Hill, who will be leading the CSIRO team as they develop the joint management plan, recognises the importance of ‘weaving together’ traditional and scientific knowledge in order to benefit from both. He also believes that some of the ways of seeing the land enshrined in traditional knowledge, such as a focus on larger, more visible species, may be make the parks management strategy more accessible to the public. In the same vein, he notes that the holistic way of understanding how humans and the landscape are connected has influenced national parks management worldwide, as exemplified by Parks Victoria’s ‘Healthy Parks, Healthy People’ campaign.
A revolutionary health care system run by and for indigenous people and incorporating indigenous healthcare perspectives has become an international model for health care reform.
Since Southcentral Foundation (SCF) began overseeing healthcare provision for Alaska Native and American Indian people in Alaska, emergency room visits have dropped by 36%. Deaths from cancer, heart disease, and cerebrovascular disease have dropped by 26%, 47%, and 59%, respectively and infant mortality has also dropped by 58%. This has all been achieved while also cutting costs.
SCF serves a population of 136,000 native people spread out over 108,000 square miles, including more than 200 native villages, many of which are only accessible by boat or air. The system involves partnerships with 51 village health clinics, medical teams who regularly travel to villages and tele-medicine, and is centred around the Native Primary Care Centre in Anchorage, where nearly half of the entire population of Alaska lives.
The health centre has the feel of a community centre and is decorated with indigenous art and craft, which increases pride and self-confidence in its ‘customerowners’ (as users of the clinic are called). It also has open offices and offers integrated treatments including complementary and traditional medicine, support with substance abuse, mental health, and home health. This all forms part of a preventative approach which aims to deal with the root causes of illness and to encourage healthy lifestyle choices.
“Emphasis on prevention and integrated healthcare delivery results in less demand for specialty care and fewer emergency room visits. Equally important is the understanding that physical health is bound to social and spiritual wellbeing. Wellness, in this model, comes from facilitating cultural connection and strengthening families and communities.”
SCF recognises that indigenous people are at particular risk of health issues because of their history, with the fallout from years of epidemics, high levels of child abuse in missions and boarding schools and the loss of culture, community and identity all contributing to current high levels of domestic and child abuse and drug and alcohol misuse. To counter this, the effects of multi-generational trauma are treated by tribal doctors along with current health issues in an integrated, holistic process.
Preventative, holistic healthcare would seems to make sense for us all, but the Nuka System of Care developed by Southcentral Foundation has particular relevance for indigenous communities because of the specific issues those communities face and the way it leverages the rich traditional knowledge that is already present.
SCF offer training, site visits and consulting to share this system with other healthcare providers worldwide.
The area of national park which takes up most of Queensland’s Fraser Island has been re-named K’gari (pronounced ‘gurri’) in honour of the local Butchulla creation story.
The Butchulla were granted native title over Fraser Island in 2014 and have incorporated their three laws into new signs which advertise the new name at the island’s three barge landings.
The rest of the the Great Sandy National Park on the mainland south of the island, will not have a name change.
Elder and Butchulla Aboriginal Corporation director Ms Bird emphasises the importance of this first step in the name change and the new signage:
“It’s important because everyone, especially the Butchulla people, when they go over there and they step onto K’gari, Fraser Island, and see our signs, they will know that this is our country.”
In the Butchulla people’s creation story, K’gari was a spirit princess who helped to create what is now known as Hervey Bay. Believing that land to be the most beautiful place ever created, K’gari asked to stay there and was transformed into the island, where she remains to this day.
Ms Bird continues her 30 year campaign to re-name the island as a whole. Although the Government designated K’gari as an ‘alternative name’ in 2011, many of the area’s traditional landowners would like to see the name given equal status with Fraser island, as has happened at Uluru/Ayer’s Rock.
Genuinely involving local people in impact investment can open up new investment pipelines and make for better outcomes for investors and communities, says Kelly Ryan from the US-based Incourage Community Foundation, in a recent article in the Stanford Social Innovation Review.
Incourage is a “place-based philanthropy, community developer, and impact investor” which has been working in a rural area of Central Wisconsin for over a decade. They are regenerating a local economy that was severely impacted by the sale of paper manufacturer Consolidated Papers in 2000. This led to a 40% loss of area jobs within three years.
We are forging a new operating model as true community steward; advancing a long-term vision of inclusive community where residents and institutions are equipped with the skills, tools, and agency to shape the communities they want.
Impact investment can be much more than a top-down injection of cash into a community. Focusing on community involvement can diversify the benefits, creating a bigger bang for each invested buck.
Ways of working
Kelly mentions three ways that Incourage apply this model within the community:
- Strengthening residents’ sense of ownership over the future of their region. Building community capacity by involving them directly in investment projects.
- Redefining people’s understanding of what has value in communities. Moving away from a purely financial capital mindset. Recognising and building on the social and intellectual capital of residents.
- Modelling values-aligned behaviour in their organisation. Discussions are then initiated on how this can be carried through in impact investments.
We have learned that an infusion of financial capital by itself does not yield behavior change and inclusive, sustainable economic growth. Change requires that we connect and leverage different kinds of capital ~ including moral, human, social, intellectual, reputational, and natural capital.
Local and Global
In order to have greater control over the way the wider economy impacts the community, Incourage also invest in and engage with companies who operate in their area to encourage business practices which have local benefits. They also take care to ensure that success is measured in terms of outcomes defined by the community itself as well as by global financial measures.
Click here for a list of Impact Investment organisations within Australia.
Kalfresh is a multi-million-dollar business at Kalbar, an hour out of Brisbane in the fertile Scenic Rim. It grows, packs and markets carrots, pumpkins, onions and beans for domestic and export markets.
Managing director Richard Gorman changed hiring practices and the business culture after some questions about the diversity of his management team made him realise the company was being held back because of the lack of women at the senior level.
“Our management team, all men. Our board, all men. Anyone who had any say in anything, it was all men,” he said.
To address the problem he tapped into a pool of labour he had never considered; the tertiary-educated women married to Kalfresh’s managers and growers.
“We had some of the most talented people we could possibly ever hope for who in their professional world would be on enormous wages. We had it all right in front of us.”
Five wives agreed to work part time for the company on a special project. The team, which had decades of experience in corporate and government jobs, included a business consultant, a banker, a Walkley award-winning journalist, an events manager and a teacher.
They were asked to solve one of the company’s most vexing problems: vegetable waste.
“It’s extremely frustrating, you’re looking at a perfectly good item that might have been 10mm too short or it’s bent,” said Mr Gorman. Kalfresh grower Ed Windley said it was “not uncommon for the bottom 15 to 30 per cent of your crop at times to get the chop, and that just kills the whole economics of what you’re doing”.
“Feeding it to cows, which is worth just $50 a tonne, is the last resort so for us, so to be able to value add any of that is a big plus for the company. As a grower it means more money in your pocket,” said Kalfresh’s agricultural director Rob Hinrichsen.
The women proposed investing in a $3 million processing line to value add the seconds for the pre-cut bagged vegetable market. They researched consumer trends, designed the packaging, planned an advertising campaign and signed Woolworths up for a trial.
The trial was a success and Woolworths now stocks the Just Veg range of carrot shred, circles and sticks in QLD, NSW and Victoria, with plans to expand to other states.”The emergence of pre-packaged fruit and veg in the last five years has been phenomenal,” said Woolworths’ head of produce Scott Davidson.
Tracey Rieck, who runs a vegetable farm with her husband Mick, said many farmers would be surprised how much value can be added to what the industry now calls “ugly veg”.
“It’s a smaller part of our whole crop but the return is insane,” she said. The seconds, which were worth between $50 and $100 a tonne as stock food, are now worth $5,000 a tonne, five times more than the premium bagged carrots which are worth $1000 a tonne.
Mr Gorman’s wife Alice said the pre-cut vegetable market was booming. “15 per cent of Australians buy a ready-to-go meal twice a week,” she said. “They use the supermarket as their fridge so they have less stuff at home, and they shop for what they require on a daily basis.
“They don’t like waste so they buy smaller amounts, and they’re time poor so often they’re looking for an easy but healthy option.”
Rob Hinrichsen said he’d been involved in the company for over 20 years and “I’ve never actually seen that sort of smooth transition over a 6 or 8 month period. It’s been sensational.”
Mr Gorman said: “It’s just another way diversity fixes problems.”
What began as a bold experiment ~ handing over control of two national parks in New South Wales to traditional Aboriginal owners a decade ago ~ is today being hailed as a landmark act of reconciliation.
In 2006 the NSW Government formally handed back Gulaga and Biamanga National Parks on the far south coast to the Yuin people, because of the significant cultural sites they contain and the living links to local Indigenous groups.
Gulaga, which was previously formally known as Mount Dromedary, is an imposing 823-metre mountain rising near the coastal town of Narooma. Biamanga National Park includes Mumbulla Mountain, further south in the Bega valley.
To the Yuin people, Gulaga is known as the Mother Mountain, and has always been a woman’s place. It includes sacred sites where Aboriginal women would retreat for storytelling, ceremony and childbirth.
Meanwhile Mumbulla was a traditional men’s mountain, and contains initiation sites where boys would become men of the Yuin tribe.
The Board of Management Chair for Gulaga, Iris White, said the park was a “beautiful” and “spiritual” place.
The energy the Yuin people have harnessed from Gulaga mountain took a very practical form when they successfully lobbied the NSW Government for traditional ownership back in 2006. Biamanga Board chair Paul Stewart said it was the culmination of decades of struggle for legal recognition of Indigenous links to their land.
“I’m just so happy to put something back,” Mr Stewart said. “Something 10 years ago that we used to drive past and say to our kids, ‘that’s ours’ … now we have got the chance to manage it.”
Traditional ownership of the national parks areas means they are managed in very different ways to other parks. For instance, a recently released Plan of Management allows Indigenous owners to close the parks to public access for cultural purposes such as initiation rites. It also allows for the possibility of traditional fire management and hunting on site.
National Parks area manager Preston Cope said those land uses required a rethink for their agency. “There are a lot of native bush tucker foods around this park,” Mr Cope said. “In a normal park, it would be illegal to collect plant material, but in this park if you’re an Aboriginal owner and you get permission from the board, then you can come and do that. “Guns cannot be used ~ they have to use traditional methods for hunting.”
Under the joint management arrangement, decisions about the running of the parks are made by the two boards, and implemented by the National Parks and Wildlife Service. “One of [the board’s] aspirations is for developing tourism on the park,” Mr Cope said. “If we were managing the park without Aboriginal owners involved, it would be a much more straight-forward business. We have to have everybody in agreeance with how the cultural heritage will be interpreted, and to do that, requires a fair bit of work that we wouldn’t normally do.”
However, all parties agree that traditional ownership of the two sacred mountains has led to a cultural revival, especially for young people who are now learning their culture.
In an exciting and unexpected turn of events, a floating solar solution is now going to be used for the East Lismore Community Solarfarm.
This change has been made at the sewage treatment plant to overcome the site limitations and maximise opportunities to expand the size of the solar array in the future ~ particularly given Lismore City Council’s plan for 100% renewable energy.
We think it’s wonderful that our prospective community investors can now consider what is an even more pioneering project, together of course with the high profile solarfarm planned for Goonellabah Sports & Aquatic Centre.
Here is an example of what the floating solarfarm may look like:
The two community companies for the projects ~ Lismore Community Solarfarm (Goonellabah) Pty Ltd, and, Lismore Community Solarfarm (East) Pty Ltd ~ have now been incorporated. These are the legal entities which will raise the funds for the two solarfarms, by offering shares for investors. In turn, once the investment offers are fully subscribed, each company will loan the funds to Lismore City Council to build the each of the solarfarms (Goonellabah Sports and Aquatic Centre and East Lismore Sewage Treatment Plant).
A constitution for each of the companies has been fully executed and will be available on the Farming the Sun website in due course.
For this establishment stage of the community companies, Starfish Initiatives is the sole shareholder and has appointed Executive Director, Adam Blakester, as the sole director. Starfish will surrender their share, and Adam will resign as Director, as the community investors become shareholders and in turn nominate to be directors at the each company’s first General Meeting after the investment offers are completed.
The offer documents, formally known as an Offer Information Statement, are being submitted to Norton Rose Fulbright, our legal partners, for final review and is expected for Launch by late May all going to plan.
As these community energy investments are a private offer, it will be only be made available to those parties who have signed onto the Investor Pledge. As at today, 136 people have signed the Investor Pledge. We would greatly welcome your interest as well! You can add your name to the list here.
The funds raised by private investment will be lent to Lismore City Council to build the solarfarms. In the event that there are any excess funds remaining, the terms of the loan provide that the Council may utilise these funds for other projects identified within their 100% Renewable Energy Master Plan.
The tenders to build the solarfarms are being conducted by Lismore City Council. These are now live! These tenders will run in parallel with us releasing the investment offers to raise the funds for the two projects.
In addition to all of the above good news and progress, Starfish is incredibly pleased and grateful for confirmation of a major donation from Diversicon Environmental Foundation. Diversicon’s donation will enable us to cover the full establishment costs for the two Lismore Community Solarfarm projects ~ Australia’s first community-funded and Council-operated projects of this kind. iversicon join with our other financial partners ~ NSW Office of Environment & Heritage, Lismore City Council and The Earth Welfare Foundation.
While this cash funding is essential, it is important to also recognise the substantial pro-bono investments being made by our other partners ~ particularly Embark Australia and Norton Rose Fulbright ~ which in total value are greater than our modest cash budget.
Starfish expresses its sincere gratitude to these Project Partners for their trust and investment in our collective vision and work.
The Farming the Sun collaboration is now working on the following priorities:
1. Finalising the private share offer after legal advice is received
2. Signing the loan agreements (between the two community companies and Lismore City Council)
3. Establishing administrative and financial systems for the community companies
4. Launching the Private Investment Offers
Useful links ~
Find out more about Lismore Community Solar ~
Read more about the floating solarfarm announcement ~
At the very edge of civilisation, on a rugged island north of Norway, sits a strange, jutting building that houses the most important collection of seeds in the world, stored away in the event of catastrophe.
The Global Seed Vault, set up in 2008, houses hundreds of thousands of crop seed varieties from around the world. Svalbard was chosen to host the vault because of its cold climate and remote location.
Foreign dignitaries, scientists and media crews can go in when invited, but it is not open to those just wanting to have a look.
To get from the front door to the vault room you have to walk 130 metres, deep into the permafrost. As you go further into the mountain the temperature plunges, the seeds inside essentially frozen in time. Almost every country in the world is represented in the vault.
In the back corner of the freezing storage room, there is a little piece of Australia ~ a stack of bright blue boxes containing 11,000 seeds, the majority of them deposited in 2014 by the Australian Grains Genebank and the Australian Pastures Genebank. More deposits of Australian seeds are planned for next year.
Next to the Australian boxes sits the Austrian collection, and close by collections from a host of countries, including Russia, Ukraine, India, Mexico, Uzbekistan, Germany and Peru.
This truly is a global project, and nothing underlines that more than the presence of two cherry red wooden boxes from North Korea.
The Croptrust, which funds and runs the vault in conjunction with the Norwegian Government, sees this as evidence that here deep in the Norwegian permafrost seed safety takes precedence over politics.
Bente Navaerdal’s job involves checking that the vault remains at a steady -18 Celsius. If a computer in her office indicates a slight fluctuation she immediately sends in one of her technical people to check it out. Her screens will also register any intruders, not that it’s likely.
“That has never happened,” she says. “I can’t imagine anyone wants to try to break into the vault, because no-one breaks into anything up here on Svalbard. We don’t have that type of crime up there.”
The Seed bank has assisted earlier than expected: the bloody conflict in Syria has left scientists at an important gene bank in Aleppo ~ where new strains of drought- and heat-resistant wheat have been developed over time ~ unable to continue their work in recent years.
Now, with no sign of conditions in Syria improving, scientists last year began recovering their critical inventory of seeds, sourced from around the Fertile Crescent and beyond, that have been in safekeeping beneath the Arctic ice at the Global Seed Bank.
The seeds are being planted at new facilities in Lebanon and Morocco, allowing scientists to resume the important research they’ve been doing for decades, away from the barrel bombs of Aleppo.
Re-post ~ Seeds of Salvation | ABC
See More ~ Arctic ‘Doomsday Vault’ opens to retrieve vital seeds for Syria | CNN
Starfish acknowledges the first peoples and traditional owners of the land that we live and work on in Australia and all around the world. We pay our respects to their ancestors and Elders ~ past, present and future. Starfish is committed to honouring and respecting first peoples’ unique cultural and spiritual relationships to the land, waters and seas, and their rich contributions to our communities and society-at-large.