Cultural survey | Landholders Driving Change

Pictured are (from left) North Queensland Cultural Heritage’s Michele Bird, LDC project manager Lisa Hutchinson, Birriah cultural officer Algon Walsh and Glen Bowen Station owner Christian Cormack.

A cultural heritage survey and impact assessment was completed on Glen Bowen in consultation with the Birriah People to address NQ Dry Tropics’ obligations and cultural heritage duty of care under the Queensland Aboriginal Cultural Heritage Act 2003 (ACHA).

Aboriginal cultural heritage surveys are conducted to identify places in the landscape which contain or embody Aboriginal heritage values, not just sites.

Michele Bird, of North Queensland Cultural Heritage Pty Ltd was commissioned, and endorsed by Birriah Cultural Heritage Services, as technical advisor and project archaeologist to assist the Birriah People in coordinating a cultural field survey of planned remediation sites.

Representatives who attended the fieldwork on Glen Bowen:

  • Birriah cultural officers Algon Walsh and Paul Walsh.
  • North Qld Cultural Heritage’s Michele Bird (technical advisor and archaeologist).
  • Glen Bowen Station landholder Christian Cormack.
  • NQ Dry Tropics’ LDC representatives Lisa Hutchinson and Sheyanne Frisby.

A total of 16 stone artefacts were located at Gully 1 (the current remediation site) and included flaked material such as primary, secondary and tertiary flakes, flake fragments and other fragments.  A total of seven stone artefacts were located at Gully 2, earmarked for future remediation.

The majority of the artefacts did not appear to be in-situ at the time of their discovery due to the environmental conditions and erosion. The assessment concluded there were no impediments to accessing or traversing the project footprint.

Senior Birriah representative Algon Walsh and Glen Bowen Station landholder Christian Cormack agreed that Christian would hold the artefacts ‘on country and on homelands’ at Glen Bowen Station.

The Landholders Driving Change project acknowledges the positive and cooperative working relationship that existed between the Birriah People and the landholder during the cultural survey and assessment process. 

Both parties acknowleded having the same aims in repairing land, controlling erosion and better caring for country.

The Birriah cultural officers note that this project is an unusual one for them to be involved in because it is not a development project.  Most projects they work on are triggered by major developments such as mining and infrastructure projects.  

Algon Walsh and Paul Walsh said they enjoyed working collaboratively with NQ Dry Tropics’ LDC team on a project where the aim of all parties was to repair, restore and to better manage the land.

Michele Bird of North QLD Cultural Heritage Pty Ltd was commissioned by NQ Dry Tropics and endorsed by Birriah Cultural Heritage Services, as technical advisor and project archaeologist to assist the Birriah People in coordinating a cultural field survey and assessment of the remediation project area at Glen Bowen. She is pictured here, wearing a pink shirt, with LDC project manager Lisa Hutchinson.

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Figure 1. Total fine sediment reduction by project type and erosion source. Inset shows the proportion of the total project area for each project type.

These estimates have been calculated using two methods: 

1) The pollutant reduction component of the Alluvium/Great Barrier Reef Foundation (GBRF) investment tool for hillslope and streambank erosion management projects; 

2) The Reef Trust Gully Toolbox method for gully erosion management projects. The LDC Water Quality Report 2020 (Waterhouse et al., 2020) highlights that a number of assumptions underlay these calculations, therefore these figures should be treated as the best available estimate of sediment reductions to date.

Preventing sediment from reaching the Great Barrier Reef

Each wet season sediment is washed into local waterways and out to the Great Barrier Reef (GBR). 

Most sediment is very fine, and can stay suspended for a long time and can travel great distances. Valuable topsoil is lost from production, and increased concentrations on the reef can be harmful to seagrasses and corals. 

Landholders in the BBB have completed 69 on-ground water quality practice changes, and it is estimated that these have contributed a fine sediment reduction of 6,154 tonnes per year from reaching the GBR. 

Of this, approximately half of the sediment savings are attributable to grazing land management changes on hillslopes and streambanks, and the other half as a result of gully remediation treatments across a broad range of scales, as shown in the graphs above. 

The table below also highlights the relatively small area of intervention in the gully management projects compared to the large sediment savings that these can achieve - 60 per cent of the sediment savings over only 4 per cent of the project area.

Table 1. Estimated sediment reductions (tonnes) from projects completed in the LDC Project to date.

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*GLMWW = Grazing Land Management Wire and Water

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*The Exploring New Incentives activity area has provided an opportunity for graziers to adopt improved land management practices through a range of activities. For some of these properties, it was the first time they signed contracts for on-ground works.

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The LDC project monitors four gully sites (represented in this table) with gold standard equipment and analysis, carried out by CSIRO.

Results have been compiled in a preliminary report from Bartley et al (2020), with the final report expected to be released by the end of 2020. The preliminary report shows all four sites have indicators of improvements, notably the Strathbogie and Mt Wickham sites.

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Reef regulations - grazing, standard conditions

  1. For land in good or fair condition (more than 50 per cent ground cover at 30 September), continue using measures to maintain land condition.
  2. For land in poor condition (less than 50 per cent ground cover at 30 September), steps must be taken to improve land condition.
  3. For land in degraded condition (less than 20 per cent ground cover at 30 September), steps must be taken to improve land condition OR prevent areas from further degrading or expanding.
  4. Keep records of measures taken and also of agricultural chemicals, fertiliser and mill mud or mill ash applied to land.
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