In early January I traveled from the Kimberly in north-west Western Australia to Oura Oura Reserve in Tasmania's Liffey Valley to learn about Healthy Country planning and the Open Standards for Conservation Planning.
As I walked down the hill from the edge of the temperate rainforest, past the modest old timber hut, on Oura Oura, a familiar face emerged walking up from the river.
It was Bob Brown, founder of Bush Heritage Australia, leader of the Greens movement, and onetime leader of the Greens Party in the Australian Parliament. Bob was meeting our group as part of a surprise visit to his former home.
This interlude took place on the second last day of a course presented by Conservation Management that I attended with friends and colleagues in early February.
Our focus was on understanding and using the Open Standards for Conservation Planning. The Open Standards is a conceptual framework (with supporting software) for conservation management planning, implementation and evaluation that operates on an ongoing cycle.
The Open Standards are used by conservation organisations world-wide and both Bush Heritage and Conservation Management are leading practitioners.
Open Standards is also used by our Aboriginal partners and was used to develop the Wunambul Gambera Healthy Country plan, which was the first ever such plan developed by Traditional Owners in Australia and was launched in partnership with Bush Heritage in 2008.
The workshop was held in the breathtaking surrounds of the Liffey Valley, which is also the birthplace of Bush Heritage. Those attending were a mix of postgraduate conservation and ecology students and professionals working in the field of land management, particularly in protected areas and indigenous partnerships.
We were treated to two field trips into the valley. In the first, we shared the privilege of being welcomed to country Traditional Owner Hank Horton, which was an inspirational way to begin our week of learning and networking.
The course was convened by three experts in Open Standards and Healthy Country planning: Stuart Cowell, Daniel Sprod and Mellissa Shepard, all of whom work for Conservation Management. The purpose of the workshop was to gain practical experience in the implementation of the Open Standards and in the Healthy Country planning process. This was facilitated by splitting attendees into small groups, with each group developed their own management plan for the case study area, the Liffey Valley.
The course was an illuminating experience for me as the Bunuba Healthy Country Landscape Manager. As a result, I'm now optimistic that I will be able to utilise the skills and processes I've learned to support the Bunuba people of the west Kimberly in implementing their Healthy Country plan, which we launched in November last year.
The week in the Liffey Valley was thoroughly enjoyable and I am grateful to have had the experience of collaborating with a group of friendly and generous people who have a wealth of experience in protected area land management and working with traditional owners.