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Greg Hunt MP
Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister for the Environment and Heritage
Federal Member for Flinders

25 June 2005

Aboriginal trainee in environmental management

The Australian Government will fund a three-year position for an Aboriginal trainee to join a groundbreaking research project into the effects of fire on local ecology in Booderee and the Shoalhaven, the Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister for the Environment and Heritage Greg Hunt said today.

Mr Hunt made the announcement while accompanying researchers from Booderee National Park and the Australian National University on a fauna monitoring survey in the park on Saturday.

"This fire project is a partnership between the Indigenous Wreck Bay Community (the traditional owners of Booderee), ANU field ecologists and Booderee National Park. It has exciting long-term implications for environmental management across Australia," Mr Hunt said.

"So far the transfer of knowledge between traditional owners and ecologists has been on an informal basis. This funding will guarantee that age-old knowledge of animals and the impact of fire continues to be passed on to modern scientists. In turn, Indigenous owners are gaining new skills in modern scientific survey and management methods."

Booderee National Park and ANU 's Centre of Resource and Environmental Science are jointly managing the $600,000 federally funded fire research project. The project is examining the long-term influence of fire on plants and animals.

"It's the first time the area has been systematically surveyed to see what animals occur here and how fire affects them," Mr Hunt said. "With 40 years of documented fire history on this land together with detailed local knowledge, we have a unique opportunity to learn more about the impact of fire.

"Already the research team has found a couple of animal species never recorded here before, such as the eastern chestnut mouse Pseudomys gracilicaudatus.

"And they have disproved some assumptions about fire. For example it was thought that the 2003 wildfires would have devastated populations of the nationally endangered eastern bristlebirds Dasyornis brachypterus.

"But intensive surveys have shown that this ground nesting bird is thriving - and in new habitats right across the park.

"There was intensive baiting of foxes before and after the fires, and we now realise that the eastern bristlebird had been confined to its impenetrable heathland habitat to escape predators.

"Booderee has around one thousand eastern bristlebirds - and there are only another thousand in scattered habitats up and down the Australian east coast. This project will help save them.

"This type of information gained from large ecological surveys, bringing together a range of skills and knowledge, is essential in developing the correct strategies to protect vulnerable species, " Mr Hunt said.

Media enquiries:
Fiona Murphy (Mr Hunt's office) 0423 577 045

Commonwealth of Australia