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We must heal Country together

Chontarle Bellottie
Published 02 Jul 2021 
about  Charles Darwin Reserve  

Chonnie Bellottie on Badimia country.<br/> Chonnie Bellottie on Badimia country.
Rainbow Bee-eaters on Badimia country. Photo by William Hansen<br/> Rainbow Bee-eaters on Badimia country. Photo by William Hansen
Gimlet Gums (Eucalyptus salubris) on Badimia country. Photo by Philipp Seiler<br/> Gimlet Gums (Eucalyptus salubris) on Badimia country. Photo by Philipp Seiler

As water flows through our landscape, it connects all living things and brings life to Country. Through Bush Heritage’s Aboriginal Partnerships program we care for Country in a collaborative and powerful way, supporting people and communities to heal and grow. Our conservation impact ripples outwards towards a better future for our environment and the safeguarding of cultural values.

As part of my work, I am lucky enough to witness firsthand the strength and resilience of our Aboriginal partners, and the myriad benefits that flow when we support Aboriginal people to heal country. I work hand‑in‑hand with Traditional Owners to ensure their aspirations and values are not only being heard but that they are embedded in our conservation management practices.

Bush Heritage’s approach to land management recognises Aboriginal people’s inter‑connectedness with the environment. There is no separation of humans from nature and no separation of nature from culture. It is a holistic approach that recognises the enormous synergies between managing land and water for conservation and managing land and water for culture.

This isn't mainstream natural resource management and everyone at Bush Heritage, from the operational level to senior leadership, is part of this journey.

For NAIDOC Week I want to highlight the relationship Bush Heritage holds with the Badimia Traditional Owners of the Midwest-Gascoyne region in Western Australia.  

In 1996, they lodged their native title claim for 36,000 square kilometres of land. In 2015, this claim was rejected by the Federal Court, stating that there was insufficient evidence to prove Badimia people's ongoing connection to country. It was an absolutely heartbreaking time for the entire community. Badimia people always have and will continue to hold a connection with their Country. 

Bush Heritage has been building and growing its relationship with the Badimia people and subsequently its representative organisation, the Badimia Bandi Barna Aboriginal Corporation, for the past couple of years. Through this relationship, we have acknowledged Badimia people’s connection to Country, supported access to Country and their involvement in conservation and cultural activities to conserve cultural sites. 

In 2021 Badimia people secured five new conservation reserves spanning over 114,000 hectares, including previously unallocated crown land just south adjacent of Bush Heritage’s Charles Darwin Reserve through the Department of Biodiversity, Conservation and Attractions. This is a dramatic increase in Badimia land and water managed for conservation and I am so proud that Bush Heritage has been active in supporting this. 

The Gunduwa Regional Conservation Association, the PEW Charitable Trusts and Bush Heritage have also supported the development of the Badimia Healthy Country Plan, which will guide the delivery of their land management over the coming years. This supports Badimia people to identify their vision for keeping healthy country and the key targets they would like to protect, a journey in healing Country. 

We have so much to learn from the resilience of Badimia people. As their story continues, I look forward to continuing to adapt and collaborate together to conserve our precious resources. 

Let’s celebrate NAIDOC Week by committing to healing Country together.  

Chonnie Bellottie on Badimia country.<br/> Chonnie Bellottie on Badimia country.
Rainbow Bee-eaters on Badimia country. Photo by William Hansen<br/> Rainbow Bee-eaters on Badimia country. Photo by William Hansen
Gimlet Gums (Eucalyptus salubris) on Badimia country. Photo by Philipp Seiler<br/> Gimlet Gums (Eucalyptus salubris) on Badimia country. Photo by Philipp Seiler