Profit vs culture? Barkindji people graduate with land management skills
In far western NSW, 60km north of Broken Hill, Barkindji people operate Poolamacca Station through the Wilyakali Aboriginal Corporation. This NSW ‘corner’ country property is popular with 4WD treks and was once the heartland of Kidman’s pastoral empire.
The station was acquired by the Indigenous Land Corporation in 2002 and last year fifteen Aboriginal people from the Broken Hill area graduated from Rural Solutions SA’s course “Planning for the Future” (pdf page 2). The course is designed to bring a ‘sense of reality’ to land use development and teaches how to:
$20,000 funding for the group to attend the course came from the Western Catchment Management Authority (WCMA). “The course has given the local Barkindji people the skills and confidence to effectively manage their property,” says Rory Treweeke, chair of the WCMA. The group focussed on the future management of the station concentrating on the development of a number of enterprises including:
While some are excited about the future prospects of the sheep station, some are frustrated at having to blend their traditional culture with the need to make money from livestock and run the property to a profit. Acting Wilyakali chairperson, Maureen O’Donnell, battling to combine the two approaches says, “We’ve got to learn the ‘white man’s’ ways to run it – so that’s what doing now.”
Over eight months the group has studied land and income management – the elements required in running a successful grazing enterprise – using both classroom and on-ground field exercises. Peter Merron, a senior consultant with Rural Solutions SA, oversaw the course which he says is “all about a bit of practical ‘hands-on’ type work…(as well as)….strategic management.”
Eleven-year-old Jade O’Donnell, who lives on the property with his parents, doesn’t notice the conflict between traditional Aboriginal value and culture and running a sheep station. He loves the change of lifestyle – compared to living in town.
The Western CMA has been established to enable local people to manage natural resources more effectively and the Planning for the Future course is one practical approach. It has been designed specifically for Indigenous people to ensure it is delivered in a culturally sensitive way and is aligned with national training competencies. The incentive program is part of the NSW and federal governments’ combined $23 million commitment to the Western Catchment over a four year period.
Finding a balance – both practically and in one’s heart – between ancient cultural traditions and the business world of the 21st century must be unbelievably difficult and ultimately very individual and personal. We would love to hear from someone who feels they have reached that balance and how they arrived there?