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K’gari Research Symposium – K’gari towards 2050

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The K’gari Research Symposium was held on Friday, 26 November, at the University of the Sunshine Coast’s Fraser Coast Campus.

Auntie Karen Hall opens the K’gari Research Symposium – K’gari Towards 2050 in November 2021 (Photo: USC)

Co-convened by Dr Kim Walker and Sue Sargent, the event attracted 100 people. Butchulla elder Auntie Karen Hall welcomed everyone to Country, referring to the Butchulla peoples’ custodial role for K’gari, songlines and pathways, observing Butchulla lore, and acknowledging the strength and knowledge of Butchulla ancestors.

Prof Joanne Scott acknowledged the Butchulla traditional owners and welcomed all First Nations participants. She highlighted that the day would focus on what was known, what was unknown, and significantly, what we need to learn – with a need to focus on research that has an impact and potential to make a difference.

Adrian Tantari, Member for Hervey Bay, spoke about the recent renaming of the World Heritage property and the bushfire, acknowledging that the bushfire had been co-managed in consultation with the Butchulla people.

Keynote speakers included Chrissy Grant, an Aboriginal (Kuku Yalanji from the Jalun-Warra clan) and Torres Strait Islander (Mualgal from Kubin on Moa Island) Elder, Jade Gould, a Butchulla and Woppaburra woman from Hervey Bay and Chair of the Butchulla Aboriginal Corporation RNTBC, and Dr Peter Blaze Corcoran, Professor Emeritus of Environmental Studies and Environmental Education at Florida Gulf Coast University.

Participants in the round table discussions identifying the island’s future research and management needs (Photo: USC)

In a follow-up session, selected panellists delivered a series of presentations highlighting the current state of knowledge. These included: A/Prof Grahame Applegate, USC – How to manage different vegetation associations: too much or too little; Prof Jennifer Firn, QUT – the conundrum of managing weeds; A/Prof John Tibby, University of Adelaide – the vulnerability of K’gari’s lakes to climate change: insights from the history of the lakes and monitoring of sand lakes on North Stradbroke Island (Minjerribah); Dr Rhonda Melzer, QPWS – Values-Based Management Framework (Monitoring);  Dr Vikki Schaffer, USC – restorative tourism: a view towards quality experiences K’gari 2050; Prof Jamie Shulmeister, University of Canterbury – origins of the K’gari dune fields and implications for changes on the East Australian coast; and Dr Kathy Townsend, USC – marine life surrounding K’gari.

The BAC’s Jade Gould facilitated the discussion around K’gari’s cultural values and Butchulla engagement (Photo: USC)

A range of thought-provoking poster presentations was also available throughout the day, with presenters on-hand to answer questions over lunch.

During the afternoon, Tim Moore led a scenario exercise highlighting K’gari as it could be in 2050, with significant challenges including climate change (and associated drought and rainfall conditions) and the implications for vegetation, wildlife and management. 

The final sessions for the day were facilitated round table discussions to identify research needs and management considerations (management, engagement and education) to future-proof a K’gari in 2050. General principles identified included:

  • Ensuring Butchulla involvement and acknowledging Butchulla aspirations were considered fundamental to success.
  • Adopting a collaborative/co-management approach, involving Butchulla people in the future management of the island.
  • Respectful tourism that enables visitors to become part of the solution.
  • A focus on solution-based science.
  • The ongoing importance of government support – particularly for funding. 

To download the outcomes document summarising research and management needs identified through the Symposium, please click here.  

The K’gari Research Symposium was generously supported by the Queensland Department of Environment and Science, Kingfisher Bay Resort Group and Fraser Island Defenders Organisation.

Article contributed by Sue Sargent and Dr Kim Walker, University of the Sunshine Coast

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