Phaius australis recovery project
Booroongen Djugun College formed an Aboriginal Natural Resource Agreement with the Department’s Northern Country Culture and Heritage Division, Scientific Branch and Biodiversity Assessment and Conservation Section. With a Northern Country Culture and Heritage Division grant of $25 000, the College established the Phaius australis recovery project.
As part of the program two plants were removed under a Departmental licence to be kept at separate locations as an insurance measure in case of the loss of the natural plants. Gary Morris, the Chief Executive Officer of Booroongen Djugun College, said that custodianship of these plants helps ensure there is genetic backup for the in situ population of 17 plants which are at risk for a variety of reasons.
The ex situ plants have been successfully nurtured and one plant flowered in the spring of 2010. The other plant was pollinated, and the seed collected and delivered to two laboratories for safe keeping.
A weed management team selected by the local Aboriginal community have worked at the site after receiving accredited training in Conservation and Land Management through Booroongen Djugun College. The existing Swamp Orchid population has been cleared of feral weeds which were overgrowing and shading out plants. The remaining Swamp Orchids are more vigorous and healthy and in three flowering seasons have gone from one flowering spike for the colony to five spikes, of which two set and dispersed seed.
Cultural Heritage officers from the Department’s Northern Country Culture and Heritage Division trained the team in cultural site surveying methodology. Hilton Naden, the Division’s Manager, said that by reconnecting the cultural renewal aspects, it will be possible to explore the shared coexistence between the Phaius and cultural values within the local area and the traditional uses of the Swamp Orchid. The project methodology is innovative in that it consistently involves the ecological expertise and advice of the Traditional Owners, Aboriginal Elders and knowledge holders.
Booroongen Djugun College was successful in obtaining a NSW Government Environmental Trust ‘Restoration and Rehabilitation’ community grant of close to $100 000 to develop and implement a Translocation and Management Plan.
The Phaius australis Recovery—Increasing Native Habitat project was recently renamed ‘Jidaanga Cultural Project—Endangered Phaius australis’. Jidaanga is a Gumbaynggir word meaning waterhole. The new name was in honour of Aunty Maggie, a recipient of an award from Andrew Refshauge MP, Deputy Premier, in 2002 in recognition of her outstanding contribution to heritage and conservation in New South Wales.
The Jidaanga Cultural Project aims to:
The future of the Swamp Orchid is precarious, and it is listed as an endangered species under both Commonwealth and State legislation. There are currently about 14 known populations in New South Wales, most of which have very few plants. The cause of this decline was originally from land clearing by way of logging, feral pigs, pasture creation, sand mining and now, in its rarity, illegal collection. We seem to be powerless to stop land clearing.
Broad-leaved Paperbark (Melaleuca quinquenervia) swamps near the coast usually (but not exclusively) seem to be the main habitat for the Swamp Orchid. For the orchid’s future survival in the wild it is therefore essential that these paperbark swamps are also preserved and not degraded.
Through the collaborative efforts of our partners and the Dunghutti and Gumbaynggir Elders, this work intends to acknowledge the Aboriginal contribution and importance of saving a very important part of our cultural heritage.