Over 250 people gathered last night in Melbourne to celebrate the achievements of a partnership between Kanyirninpa Jukurrpa (KJ), The Nature Conservancy and BHP Billiton which has delivered outstanding economic, environmental and cultural benefits.
For thousands of years Martu people of the Western Desert have lived on and looked after their country – an area twice the size of Tasmania.
Their country, which includes parts of the Great Sandy, Little Sandy and Gibson deserts is part of a diverse ecosystem which is home to numerous threatened species including the Greater Bilby and Black-flanked Rock-wallaby.
The partnership has focused on the continued conservation of this area by combining scientific land management with traditional Indigenous cultural practices.
Over 250 Martu people have been employed in permanent and casual positions throughout the lifetime of the project and, through cultural pilgrimages, have transferred knowledge from elders to the younger Martu.
Being able to get a ranger job helped me to make the decision to come back to the community. There are not many opportunities for young Aboriginal girls to get jobs out in their country, in remote communities,” said Alysha Taylor, Ranger, Parnngurr.
Environmental outcomes have also been realised, and include improving the health of natural water sources through visitation, cleaning out of soaks and rock holes and the removal of feral camels.
Rich Gilmore, Country Director of The Nature Conservancy, said the project continues to achieve outstanding results for conservation, and for the cultural and economic wellbeing of Martu people.
“The commitment of Martu people and the collaboration of a major corporation, an environmental non-government organisation and an indigenous organisation has proved be a successful combination,” Mr Gilmore said.
BHP Billiton Asset President Iron Ore, Edgar Basto said this commitment to work together advances opportunities for Indigenous communities in employment, training and cultural engagement, as well as managing cultural heritage.
“We have been operating in the Pilbara for more than 50 years and have developed positive relationships with Traditional Owners such as the Martu people. We are committed to the Pilbara for the long term and aim to ensure that all our partnerships, such as this one, deliver true and lasting benefits,” Mr Basto said.
The partnership is part of BHP Billiton’s West Australian iron ore business’ social investment program which has invested over A$300 million in the past five years on projects across health, education, Indigenous development and community infrastructure.