in the nature

NAIDOC Week 2021: how we can help in healing country?

The theme for NAIDOC Week 2021 is ‘Healing Country’. Leigh Walters of the TLC reflects on work the TLC has done with the Aboriginal community over the past 20 years towards that goal.

Over the past 20 years I have been involved in the conservation of private land in Tasmania. During that time I’ve learned that to achieve conservation and the protection of these places it is people who are key.

I’ve had great opportunities to build relationships with the Tasmanian Aboriginal community, relationships that I believe are essential to heal both land and people. I had an opportunity to expand my understanding of cultural values through developing a conservation agreement on the Kings Run property, when it was still managed by Geoff King.

Sharnie Read talks to TLC supporters about Aboriginal heritage at the 2021 Prosser River Reserve Discovery Day. Photo: Eddie Safarik

In 2018, after Geoff’s passing, I worked on the purchase and return to the community of the 338 hectares on the wild west coast. This return was facilitated through joint efforts and fundraising by the TLC, the Bob Brown Foundation and the Indigenous Land and Sea Corporation (ILSC). The TLC prepared the conservation covenant on the balance of land titles, before all the titles were passed to ALCT, with the Tasmanian Aboriginal Centre (TAC) now looking after this impressive part of the takayna coast. Deals like this don’t happen without shared objectives, good intentions and trust.

There is much the TLC can learn from palawa on connections to country. While we do not co-manage properties, we communicate with the TAC so common issues are considered. The TAC has provided an Aboriginal cultural perspective on various reserves during our supporter Discovery Days. The understanding gained from those interactions often changes our relationships with these places and our thought process when considering management.

We have a lot to learn about the deep connections to the land – on fire, on traditional practices, on caring for country – all part of healing the land and ourselves.

Clyde Mansell and former TLC CEO Jane Hutchins at trawtha makuminya. Photo: Matthew Newton

A little before Kings Run, in 2013, I worked with the Aboriginal Land Council of Australia (ALCT) and TAC to secure via purchase the trawtha makuminya property adjacent to the TLC’s Five Rivers Reserve in the Central Highlands. Together these properties cover around 19,000 ha adjacent to the Tasmanian Wilderness World Heritage Area. Clyde Mansell noted that the property was a virtually uninterrupted cultural landscape, which provides evidence of the past tracks used by palawa ancestors.

The TLC found funding through the Federal Government’s National Reserve System and with an additional contribution from the ILSC the property was purchased. TLC enabled a covenant to be put on the title and the TAC became the land manager. Clyde Mansell said at the time that a collaboration of this nature had never before been witnessed in Tasmania.

I guess from my personal perspective, having respectful interactions leads to good relationships, and that’s when things become possible. The TLC hopes to help facilitate more returns of country in the future to protect and heal these places. Let’s continue to communicate and build relationships to work together when and where we can.

Banner: Kings Run celebration Photo: Matthew Newton

Author Profile
Leigh Walters
Operations Manager

Leigh was born and raised in northern Tasmania and spent much of his childhood out in nature, finding out about plants, animals and their habits and habitats. He has had twenty years’ experience in the private land conservation field, from working with landowners to help them achieve conservation, to managing the TLC Reserve Estate. Leigh’s two daughters and a fantastic wife are his priority, but he also fits in some beach fishing, occasional bushwalks and travel.