The final session at the 8th Biennial K’gari (Fraser Island) Conference was a Q&A forum.
Chaired by Professor Tim Wess, from the University of the Sunshine Coast, questions from the floor were posed to a panel of psychologist Steve Biddulph, Veronica Bird (Butchulla Aboriginal Corporation) , Jade Gould (Butchulla Aboriginal Corporation), Dr Bradley Smith (Central Queensland University), Lyn Wallace (World Heritage Unit, Department of Environment and Science), Linda Behrendorff (QPWS&P), Peter Shooter (FIDO), Prof. Ian McNiven (Monash University), Dr Kim Walker (University of the Sunshine Coast) and Colin Zemek (Fraser Coast Regional Council).
Q: Does the island need a cultural history centre?
A: The Central Station redevelopment will provide K’gari with a cultural history centre, although cultural history is also being incorporated into the Kingfisher Interpretative Centre and should be incorporated into display materials island-wide.
Q: Why have the ranger talks disappeared?
A: Linda Behrendorff was an interpretative ranger, but unfortunately, these roles were made redundant by the Newman Government. Things are gradually improving with Jenna Tapley as Public Contact Ranger and the recent appointment of Danniele Tobane as the BAC Communication and Education Officer.
Q: Why isn’t the use of chemical toilets by campers outside designated areas enforced?
A: Although these are a recommendation, the use of chemical toilets can’t currently be enforced. Uptake by tag-a-long has however been much better. The rangers do undertake regular ‘health checks’ and agree that bush toileting is an issue. The Queensland Minister for the Environment, Leeanne Enoch, is fighting for improvement.
Q: Why aren’t we doing more waste management on K’gari cleaning up the transfer stations and historical dumping sites (some of which contain asbestos)?
A: The lack of a hard stand at Happy Valley, the use of contractors and the presence of asbestos were raised. Also, FIDO has offered to do some vegetation screening, but there has been no further action. Concerns will be forwarded to both the waste and environment (asbestos) teams for a response, but complainants were asked to voice their concerns directly to Fraser Coast Regional Council.
Q: Does the panel have concerns about biosecurity on the island?
A: Yes – there are some real concerns. For example, there are no washdowns, no policing with reports of turf and plants brought onto the island and numerous examples of weeds, pests and pathogens introduced to the island including Abrus (crab eye creeper), Easter cassia, Jamella (Pandanus leaf-hopper) and Myrtle rust. The Butchulla Aboriginal Corporation (BAC) suggested that they would like to play a more public role in biosecurity education and to be at the table for discussions about solutions.
Q: Can we reduce 4WD transport and damage to the island?
A: Options include resting areas to spell the land and enable it to restore naturally. Concerns were again raised about Hook Point to Dilli and impacts to shorebirds – this was to be addressed by a previous government commitment to upgrade the inland/forestry road, but this commitment was never met. FIDO also has concerns about erosion and sand movement, for example into Yidney Lake. Ross Waldron has been researching transport options based on fieldwork in Cooloola.
Q: Is the panel concerned about the number of injuries and deaths from dingoes on the island? Are they being killed for our mistakes?
A: The number of dingo issues only relate to a small portion of the K’gari dingo population. The Department has been strictly enforcing social media infringements – taking the approach of managing people first. QPWS have multiple priorities including weeds and biosecurity, visitor management and dingoes, where they have been trying to change the public’s perception. Jade suggested that in some cases Butchulla relationships (with the dingo treated as a camp dog) may have jeopardised the dingo on K’gari, making dingo less afraid to approach people.
Q: How many traditional cool burns would it take to generate carbon credits?
A: At this time there is no recognised methodology, (although this could be an opportunity if a method was developed), to assess cool burns for carbon, the methodology being used up in the Cape is for savannah fires. Recognised that cool burns have multiple other benefits and have recommenced on K’gari.
Q: How do we reduce stress in Australian schools?
A: Steve suggested that we need to reduce anxiety and the issue of intergenerational trauma (particularly for Aboriginal people who have suffered 200 years of trauma), which is impacting on our youth. He suggested that K’gari is a model of what the world needs. To heal, we need to believe in the human race, to have something to hand over to our kids, and K’gari is a model of hope, appreciation and stewardship.
Q: Is it beyond us to come up with a scheme whereby the BAC can benefit from the island?
A: A $5 levy on visitors to the island was suggested (supported by the Fraser Island World Heritage Advisory Committees). The Butchulla are sick of being reliant on Government and want long-term solutions to provide opportunities and self-reliance to the Butchulla community. The BAC hope that decisions like Timber Creek will impact on decision making and policy in the future, enabling compensation for cultural loss on more just terms.
This report was compiled by Sue Sargent, Chair, Fraser Island Natural Integrity Alliance