Celebrating Rick Farley’s legacy

on 20 May 2016 

Last Friday marked ten years since the sad passing of Rick Farley. Farley was an environmental leader, a passionate advocate for Aboriginal land rights and management. He was the co-founder of the Landcare volunteer movement and fostered environmental partnerships between different interest groups towards a sustainable future for Australia.

As a past board member of Bush Heritage, Rick’s vision and leadership encouraged a collaborative approach to working with landholders across Australia in addressing the nation’s conservation and reconciliation challenges.  To create a fairer, more just and sustainable Australia, particularly for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people. 

Rick’s vision and legacy continues on through the foundations for change he seeded across Australia.  At Bush Heritage it is reflected in the empowering projects the Rick Farley Memorial Scholarship has supported and through the partnerships that Bush Heritage has formed with Aboriginal groups across Australia. 

Working together to Care for Country: The Rick Farley Memorial Scholarship

In 2006, to honour Rick’s life achievements, his wife Linda Burney kindly nominated Bush Heritage Australia to create the Rick Farley Memorial Scholarship for young Indigenous Australians to encourage excellence in conservation. The scholarship program has supported five projects for Aboriginal people and rangers to study and train in conservation. Scholarship holders have gained new skills, learned from their Elders and are set to become the next generation of leaders in the management of their country and culture.  

One of the projects the Rick Farley Memorial Scholarship supported was applied ecological monitoring training with the rangers on Nantawarrina Indigenous Protected Area (IPA), in the Northern Flinders Ranges of South Australia.

"I think this one is recovering but you can see where the goats have been eating it" say’s Cameron Johnson. Cameron is measuring the Minara or Bullock Bush (Alectyron oleifolius), an important bushtucker species on Nantawarrina Indigenous Protected Area (IPA).The Nantawarrina rangers are revisiting and remeasuring goat browse sites as part of a broader ecological monitoring program.  

Nantawarrina is home to many rare or endangered mammals, birds and reptiles, including the andu (yellow footed rock-wallaby). The main threats to andu are fox and feral cat predation, loss of habitat and competition for food and water from feral animals, particularly goats.  Keeping on top of goat numbers is a big part of the rangers’ work and a challenge in the rugged peaks and gorges of Nantawarrina. Motion detection cameras are part of the monitoring. Cameras, gather information on cat and fox numbers, and allow the rangers see what other small native mammals, like Kultarr, might be around.

As I watch the rangers at work – using their knowledge of country alongside science-based monitoring tools – I reflect on and acknowledge how this partnership all became possible through the inspiration, vision and work of Rick Farley. 

The partnership at Nantawarrina IPA reflects the values and qualities Rick applied in his life, it is built on relationships.  It takes a practical approach towards working together in Caring for County, addressing the issues of reconciliation and sustainability. The rangers work in looking after Nantawarrina give members and younger generations of  the Nepabunna community  options for employment in their community and on their country.

 In another project the scholarship supported Wandandian man Darren Brown to undertake his studies in Conservation and Land Management specialising in fire ecology. Darren’s training gave him the opportunity to collaborate in a fire research project on his country at Booderee National Park alongside Professor David Lindenmayer from the Australian National University.The research project was one of the largest studies in the NSW south coast to look at the long term effects of fire on the mammals, birds and reptiles inhabiting a range of vegetation types found in the park. The research project is challenging previously held ideas about reptile and mammal fire response to wildfires. It is informing appropriate burning practices and the importance of feral animal management post wildfire in the park.

Two-way conservation: Bush Heritage partners with Aboriginal groups across Australia. 

Rick’s vision in advocating for landholder partnerships, particularly with Aboriginal people is being realised across the country. Currently Bush Heritage are privileged to be working with over twenty communities and ranger groups on Aboriginal Land and Sea projects.

From Bush Heritage’s birthplace in the Liffey Valley of Tasmania – on the Liffey River and Oura Oura properties – Bush Heritage is working with the Tasmanian Aboriginal Community in a collaborative community driven approach to Aboriginal cultural heritage management. 

To the far north-west coasts of the Kimberley’s where we work in partnership with the Wunambal Gaambera Traditional Owners and the Uungu rangers. A major threat to Wunambal Gaambera country is wildfires. For the past five years the rangers have been working hard to reduce wildfires through their “right-way fire” management as they call it. That is using a combination of cultural knowledge and western science in their burning practices.  The rangers have significantly reduced the amount of harmful late season wildfires. In the past wildfires could burn for several weeks or months and reach over 100,000 hectares in size. In the last five years of the program wildfires have reduced to a tenth of that size.

Bush Heritage is committed to further progressing Rick’s vision for Australia to take responsibility for sustainable land management, nature conservation with a core value of working in partnership with Aboriginal people and communities.

Rick’s legacy and his life’s work continue to inspire future generations of Australians like me.

Bush Heritage thanks Linda Burney for giving Bush Heritage the honour of delivering the Rick Farley Memorial Scholarship and a big thank you to the many people who have donated to scholarship.