Searching outback for answers
Tuesday, 21st September, 2010
To mark the 150th anniversary of the Burke and Wills expedition a group of environmentalists is taking the same track, but unlike the pioneers they are connecting with locals along the way.
Historians believe that Burke and Wills could well have survived their ill-fated trek had they befriended the Aborigines.
Dr Jonathan King, who is leading the Burke and Wills Environmental Expedition, said yesterday that this trip was about talking to locals about local environmental issues.
"We are asking; "What are the environmental problems?" Dr King said.
He said it was important as the research conducted would help the federal government decide how to spend the $9.9 billion they have pledged for regional Australia.
The expedition from Melbourne to the Gulf of Carpentaria provides a chance to compare the landscape as Burke and Wills saw it in 1860 with today's.
It will also be used to identify ways current land managers and community members are dealing with issues such as the introduction of foreign plants and animals, changed river, soil and vegetation conditions and recognising the value of Aboriginal people's knowledge and skills in caring for the environment.
Dr King expects to cover 42,000 kilometres over the next three months. He is being joined by scientists, students and politicians.
"We are here to talk to people about environmental issues ... and tell the Federal Government how to spend it," Dr King said.
Dr King said the group had been working with indigenous people to ensure they raise important issues on the environment.
After visiting Menindee, the team spent yesterday talking to locals in the city and asking them about their stories and views on the environment.
"People might have stories of their own ... we're here to learn," Dr King said.
Operations Manager for the trip Holger Schumann said the more pressure that is put on the government, the more funding and help that will be given to regional areas.
Dr King said by reaching the locals, information was "coming straight from the horses' mouths".
For more information visit www.cv.vic.gov.au or phone 0419 495 732.