• Jacob Cassidy, Mungalla Director facilitates a school excursion at the wetlands. (Facebook/Mungalla Aboriginal Tours)
Mungalla Aboriginal Business Corporation from Far North Queensland is the recipient of the 2018 Caring for Country NAIDOC Award.
By
NITV Staff Writers

13 Jul 2018 - 8:27 PM  UPDATED 13 Jul 2018 - 11:01 PM

Mungalla Aboriginal Business Corporation has been awarded for their efforts in protecting Nywaigi Mungalla Wetlands from noxious weeds and other environmental impacts.

The Mungalla property is located in the Ingham region, Far North Queensland, adjacent to the Great Barrier Reef. 

Jacob Cassidy, the Director of the Mungalla Business Corporation told NITV that this year’s theme, “Because Of Her, We Can” fits perfectly within the story of Mungalla station.

“Through the works of one old Aunty, its quite fitting that this is the year of ‘Because Of Her, We Can'. She did a lot of work through the Indigenous Land Corporation in getting the land back.” 

In 1999, Nywaigi Clan worked on a campaign with the Indigenous Land Corporation in efforts to purchase the 880 hectare property, as the land had strong cultural and historical significance. When Mungalla Station was handed over, the Nywaigi Clan soon realised that the previous management practices that were employed had to be changed as it was affecting the ecology of the wetlands.  

Protecting Mungalla Wetlands 

Mungalla Wetlands had been turned into a swamp as a result of the previously introduced freshwater weeds. These weeds were impacting the water quality as well as flora and fauna. 

“We inherited a lot of bad farming practices in particular the introduction of noxious weeds,” said Jacob.  

Mike Nicholas, former employee for CSIRO, has supported Mungalla Corporation through the Wetlands Management Strategy. Nicholas says Mungalla's main objection was for, "the land to be clean and return back to the same state and condition traditional owners had left when managed Country." 

“They wanted the land to be in the best possible condition that reflected what it used to be,  that’s very difficult to do on a highly modified environment," said Mike. 

“The dream was to develop this place and we knew very quickly that cattle was not going to provide a lot of job. We had to think about diversifying," said Jacob. 

Mungalla Wetlands had three noxious weeds causing the Mungalla Aboriginal Business Corporation and CSIRO to work alongside and take action. In order to protect Country from these foreign weeds methods and a Land Management Strategy was put in place.

“We showed that you put saltwater on these plants they’ll die. I was watching the progress and you can see within a matter of days everything going brown. Within three weeks there was open water it was dramatic," said Mark. 

The improvement of the Wetlands not only has benefited the quality of the water, but it has allowed native wildlife and flora to re-enter back the area. Saltwater crocodiles, barramundi and red belly black snakes are all now  enjoying the benefits of Mungalla's efforts.

 

Restoration of Country 

With the aim to keep Country safe, Jacob said he would like to see more Indigenous Australians getting involved in science.

“I would love to see some of our Traditional Owner’s start moving into that area of science giving young people first of all just a job readiness and doing training that’s relative for Aboriginal people, those skills are transferable especially back into the remote communities.”  

“We’ve come along way and I think it's really important that we help other Indigenous organisations achieve what they want to do as well. But you got to have people you can work with and relate to and respectful of Traditional Owner’s views.

Mike and the CSIRO team incredibly culturally sensitive and traditional method and science really worked well.” 

“For over 70 years saltwater was excluded from this Wetland. In two years we demonstrated we can restore the natural capital and resilience of coastal wetlands. We have led the way and provided a living example to other land holders of coastal wetlands that they can make a difference to the environment.”

Since the restoration of the Wetlands Mungalla Aboriginal Business Corporation have received many recognitions across the Queensland community including the Ministers Award for Leadership in Sustainability in 2016 and major Australian airline, Virgin Australia who in 2017 named a aeroplane after Mungalla Wetlands as a way of acknowledging and thanking the Corporation for their contribution and efforts to environmental and sustainability issues. 

The National NAIDOC Awards 2018 broadcasts live on NITV (Ch. 34), Friday 13 July at 7.30pm and will be available On Demand after broadcast.

For all NAIDOC Week stories and features head to our website