Never underestimate the power of sharing knowledge – especially when it comes to a World Heritage property.
One hundred people attended the 7th Biennial (Time, Tide and Tourism) Conference at the University of the Sunshine Coast Sippy Downs in August. Like the previous six conferences there was much informal interaction between the attendees, all of whom have a strong interest in K’gari. While some of the issues discussed such as managing K’gari’s invasive species are perennial topics, it was helpful for the audience to gain an insight into the progress being made and the on-going effort required.
Aside from bringing together a diverse and interesting audience, it was the caliber of the opening speakers, Dr John Hookey and Dr Martin Buzacott, that set the bar for this event. Dr Hookey, Commissioner of the 1975-76 Fraser Island Inquiry provided his unique perspective on how sand mining was brought to an end on K’gari, while Martin Buzacott addressed how numerous artists and musicians have drawn their inspiration from the Fraser Island landscape. Butchulla Aboriginal Corporation Secretary, Christine Royan, provided an insightful outline of “K’gari’s Future with the Native Title Holders,” and the changing role of the Butchulla people in managing K’gari.
One of the most interesting papers was the presentation by Chris Loorham. In the 42 years since he worked as an advisor the Fraser Island Environmental Inquiry commissioners, Chris has travelled far and wide dealing with environmental law and Native Title matters. Protocol to avoid any perceptions of bias from the 1975-76 Inquiry meant that he never returned to K’gari until he returned as a volunteer on a 2016 weeding program. This return encounter and his observations encouraged him to return from Port Fairy in Victoria to present “From Confrontation to Collaboration”.
There was significant amusement about some of the methods for “Handling the Hordes” with solutions from overseas World Heritage sites, but managing visitation has some serious implications. Other topics discussed the methodology of the new Values Based Management Plans being developed for K’gari, mapping the Great Sandy Strait and incorporating coral into its tidal tapestry.
Reflecting on the conference in her role as rapporteur, Sue Sargent (Chair of the Australian World Heritage Advisory Committee and Fraser Island’s Community Advisory Committee) commented on the knowledge gained by all the participants in the room, before closing with a quote from Christine Royan’s presentation, that collaboration was the key – “walking together and working together,” to secure the future of K’gari.
The University of the Sunshine Coast has committed to support the 8th Biennial Conference at its Fraser Coast campus in 2019 and Fraser Island Defenders’ Organisation has already held out its hand to make the next conference a collaboration with the Butchulla Aboriginal Corporation, building around the working title of Community, Culture and Collaboration.
Article submitted by John Sinclair (FIDO) and Sue Sargent