Hamelin Station Reserve may not be the westernmost point of mainland Australia (that honour is reserved for Steep Point – which is another 160km further west along the Useless Loop Road), but Hamelin would easily be one of the most remote locations on the vast Australian continent to conduct a science gathering during this year’s National Science Week.
Being located about 750km north of the nearest capital city (Perth) didn’t prevent a record attendance at this year’s fair – held on Malgana Country. This is the fourth such annual event organised by Bush Heritage as a contribution to National Science Week activities.
More than 80 participants attended and filled every chair, and much of the standing room, in the station’s old shearing-shed (now beautifully converted to a gathering and meeting centre), to hear from a world-class line-up of presenters.
The presenters (including university professors, PhD research scientists, reserve ecologists and managers, Aboriginal rangers, and Aboriginal high school science students) covered a range of topics such as Malleefowl conservation, fire ecology and climate change, fauna recovery on Dirk Hartog Island, grasswren research, Aboriginal Ranger activities, seagrass ecology and response to heat wave events, Santalaceae (sandalwood) research, and right-way science.
While nature conservation was the obvious core theme for the Science Fair, there was also an overarching strong platform of collaboration – between conservation organisations, universities and education institutions, government agencies, natural resource management groups, community groups, and Aboriginal Rangers.
Malgana Elder Ada Fossa, accompanied by her son and daughter, Nick and Pat, gave a wonderful and warm Welcome to Country – which set the mood for ‘right-way science’ presentations, discussions and activities throughout the two days of activities.
The warm welcome, and following spirit of collaboration made a big impression on all attendees.
“I was really impressed by the range and quality of speakers, mix of attendees and supporters, the structure of the event, and presentation of all facilities,” said Bush Heritage’s Western Region Executive Director Luke Bayley, in his reflections on the event.
“It was fantastic to see how welcome and inspired the Malgana Traditional Owners and Rangers were, and I was very proud of the Bush Heritage team for the work they're doing to support this emerging relationship, and promoting right-way science and land management action.
“For me, the whole spirit of the event was epitomised by the Aboriginal ‘Follow the Dream’ students – who travelled up from Champion Bay Senior High School and gave a fantastic presentation. They added something really special to this very positive and collaborative dynamic. They’re the future.”
The ‘Follow the Dream’ students’ presence at the Science Fair was supported by event sponsor NACC-NRM (the Northern Agricultural Catchments Council) and is aimed at encouraging and supporting Aboriginal high school students to pursue studies in science. The students, all in Year 8, gave a magnificent presentation, and were rewarded with a t-shirt from the equally admirable ‘Deadly Science’ initiative, which is also aimed at encouraging Aboriginal students’ interest and participation in science.
Western Region Healthy Landscapes Manager Elisabeth McLellan said the two-day program was a great reflection on the spirit of collaboration that has been with Hamelin Station Reserve ever since it was first purchased by Bush Heritage in 2015.
“I really want to thank all of the Bush Heritage staff and volunteers who helped make this year’s Science Fair the best ever,” said Elisabeth, “as well as our supporters, the event sponsors (NACC and Rangelands NRM), our partners, visitors, and everyone else who contributed in one way or another – especially the Malgana Aboriginal Rangers, and the Follow the Dream students.
“We had record numbers for the Science Fair, as well as for all of the associated field activities: the early morning birdwatching excursion, sandpad track monitoring, fauna radio tracking, art and craft activity, campfire gathering, homestead walking tour, and of course, the big bush barbecue breakfast at the camp kitchen.
“We also had the best-ever spirit of collaboration between Bush Heritage and the Malgana Aboriginal Rangers and community, who are already sitting down with us to plan next year’s event.”
Science Week 2020. Make your plans now to head way out west to Hamelin Station Reserve. It’s going to be bigger and better than ever!