Meekatharra’s path to success

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Meekatharra Shire Council has joined forces with the Yulella Aboriginal Corporation and the Yugunga-Nya and Ngoonooru Wadjari people to build a 3.6 kilometre walkway to raise awareness of the significant biodiversity of the rangelands and the rich Aboriginal heritage. The project, funded with more than $22,000 from the Australian Government Envirofund, involved 20 Indigenous youths, who helped build the walkway over four months.

The majority of international visitors coming to Australia rank “experiencing Aboriginal culture” near the top of their list of activities. Unfortunately, some visitors leave the country without learning any Indigenous history or finding any cultural sites. If tourists take the Great Northern Highway in Western Australia, via Meekatharra, they can’t miss it. The remote town of Meekatharra has a population of just 1,000 and lies about 765 kilometres north east of Perth. According to the chief executive officer of Meekatharra Shire Council, Tom Hartman, Meekatharra is “bang in the centre” of the State.

“We’re in a locality where we can interpret the rangelands to the extent that we want to because of our prime position,” he said. “The project has brought the community together plus it gives everybody a sense of ownership. It lifts the skills of the Indigenous youths and interprets their ancestors’ stories, telling the story of the town, plus it provides training and employment opportunities.”

The meandering pathway has 14 interpretive signs identifying the natural features along the banks of Meekatharra Creek.

“The interpretation highlights the Indigenous people’s contact with land, the principles of ecologically sustainable rangeland management, such as harvesting native flora, and the rich vegetation found in the area,” Tom Hartman said.

Some say that the name Meekatharra comes from “mikadah” or “migadah”, which is a Wajarri word meaning “hollow” or “depression”.

Visitors can see the sites of temporary camps made by the nomadic Aborigines, which are located near Mikadah Soak and “bumba” (camel soak), along Meekatharra Creek. A lookout shelter is about to be completed, which includes seven more interpretive signs and gives visitors a great view of the region, called “Muddergoyouroo” by the Indigenous people.

“It is important that there is a greater awareness of their connection to this area and their connection to the creek,” Tom said.

Another part of the project included a major clean up day, where locals came together for a cause that united all members of the Meekatharra community. Work is currently underway to restore the creek to its natural state by removing soil, reinstating natural flow channels and revegetating with indigenous species.

The Australian Government Envirofund, which supported the Meekatharra Shire Council and Yulella Aboriginal Corporation, is the local action component of the Australian Government’s $3 billion Natural Heritage Trust. Councils, community groups and individuals can apply for grants of up to $50,000 (GST inclusive) to carry out onground and other actions to target local problems. These grants are to undertake an onground project or to help them increase their skills and knowledge about environmental protection.

Local groups and Councils have the local knowledge, expertise and enthusiasm to deliver onground results. Small projects help ensure that Australia’s rich biodiversity is protected and our rich resources are sustained for generations to come. This is the essence of the Australian Government Envirofund – empowering local communities to develop local solutions to local environmental challenges.

Through Envirofund, community groups can carry out effective onground work such as tree planting, fencing, weeding and seed collecting to target local problems such as salinity, water quality, protection of native vegetation and coastal erosion. The next round of Envirofund grants will open for applications in February 2006.

To receive a copy of the Australian Government Envirofund Guide and Application Form for Round 8 when it becomes available, call the Envirofund Hotline on 1800 303 863 or email envirofund@daff.gov.au

For more information about Meekatharra’s interprative walkway project contact Tom Hartman on (08) 9981 1002 or email toma.hartman@meekashire.wa.gov.au

For information about the Natural Heritage Trust visit www.nht.gov.au