Cape York is a long way from home in the central wheat belt region of Western Australia, yet Oral McGuire was pleased to have made the journey across the country.
Oral, from Ballardong Country in the Nyungar Nation, said his mob, Yaraguia Enterprises Inc., received the deed to 2100 acres of their country in 2008, through the Indigenous Land Corporation’s land acquisition program. For the past 180 years, Oral's native lands had been subject to intensive wheat and sheep farming (broad acre farming), with the majority of the country cleared of all vegetation.
The Yaraguia Management Plan has an environmental focus and healing 11 regions of native country was prioritised for the initial three years of the project. Now, six years on, a members of the enterprise have planted 300,000 trees with an aspiration to plant one million, and still the land is healing.
Oral has been working with Victor Steffersen, fire management specialist, since 2008, initially through a cultural knowledge recording program run by Wheatbelt NRM. Oral says that rediscoveing the proper use of fire, when Victor reintroduced traditional fire management practices to the Ballardong mob, was a perfect meeting of people and method.
According to Oral, Victor was the right guy. His contemporary approach to reintroducing a long lost fire management method, helps with the renewd responsibility of land management. The Ballardong mob are environmentally motivated, as the group has a total commitment to the removal of chemicals from land management processes and to replace current practice with natural and traditional processes. The recognise fire is the key tool for weed management.
Oral's motivation for attending the 2014 Indigenous Fire Workshop in Cape York was the opportunity to work directly with, and learn directly from Traditional Owners and Victor.
“I have come here to spend time with people of similar mindset in terms of values and exploration of fire use,” Oral said.
“To be around others gives me the energy and inspiration to return home and pass on knowledge.
We are learning from masters with first-hand knowledge and it’s too good an opportunity to pass up.” Oral said
As his attendance was a first at the fire workshop, he was ready for the challenge of continuing the journey.
“There have been many highlights, but the main one was meeting the Old Man, Dr Tommy George, being in his camp, and those quiet moments spent with him.
We don’t have an old fella like him at home,” he said.
Additional highlights for Oral included cultural exchange and cultural interactions, and meeting the attendedees and local community members.
“The smoking ceremony and Welcome to Country gave me a sense of peace about travelling so far.
I’d like to thank Taepithiggi people for the experience.” he said.