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Publications archive - Annual reports

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Key departmental publications, e.g. annual reports, budget papers and program guidelines are available in our online archive.

Much of the material listed on these archived web pages has been superseded, or served a particular purpose at a particular time. It may contain references to activities or policies that have no current application. Many archived documents may link to web pages that have moved or no longer exist, or may refer to other documents that are no longer available.

Supervising Scientist Annual Report 2000-01

Environment Australia, 2001
ISSN 1441-9335

6 Research Support and Communications

The Aboriginal Communications Unit, formed in February 2000, comprised two staff based in Jabiru. The unit has been responsible for coordinating the employment and training of local Aboriginal people in eriss programmes and for the dissemination of information about research activities to a range of stakeholders, particularly the local Aboriginal community.

In April 2001 the move towards developing and diversifying the communications activities of eriss was enhanced by bringing together areas for interaction with the local Aboriginal community and communicating with the general public, environmental groups and the scientific community. In order to accomplish this, two existing research officers were combined with Aboriginal Communications to form the Research Support and Communications unit.

The Aboriginal communications officer focused on communications with the local Aboriginal community and associated groups while the Research Support officers provided research support to the research programmes. Developing new methods to disseminate and promote information about research and other activities undertaken by eriss to other stakeholder groups was also progressed. The change in the structure of the unit late in the reporting year has meant that research support activities have been included in the research programme reports.

Following on from the good working relationship formed with the Traditional Owners during the 2000-01 pop netting programme, eriss developed a similar employment programme for 2001-02. As well as the benefit of the scientific research, it provides an opportunity for the eriss staff to work alongside landowners on their country sharing knowledge. Such cooperative work will help to raise awareness of the work we do in the local communities and will assist Aboriginal people develop more confidence in the results obtained in our programmes.

Aboriginal involvement in eriss research projects is restricted to work relating to the Ranger mine only. During the year the Gundjehmi Aboriginal Corporation, representing the Traditional Owners of the Ranger and Jabiluka mining leases, advised eriss that it would not consent to having members work on projects relating to the Jabiluka mine. The Gundjehmi Aboriginal Corporation asked eriss not to employ other Aboriginal people to work on the Jabiluka lease and eriss has respected the request.

The assistance of Traditional Owners was also sought throughout the year on a number of other projects throughout the region, and eriss employed local Aboriginal people on a range of projects such as the collection of mussels from the South Alligator River and Mudginbardi for testing, cultural advice for the translation of English into language, set up of monitoring equipment, fish observations in creeks and billabongs, and on-site general assistance at the institute in Jabiru.

As communicating the outcomes of our work is considered an integral part of our research, communications staff assisted in the dissemination of information to appropriate stakeholders. An example was the coordination of information about the survey work eriss is conducting in the Gunlom area of the South Alligator valley in preparation for the rehabilitation of old tailings on the Gunlom Road. This involved working with Parks Australia North, the Northern Land Council and the Jawoyn and Bumbartluk Associations to ensure people were aware of work being undertaken and to determine whether there were issues, such as cultural sensitivities, that eriss should be aware of. Jawoyn people assisted eriss to collect mussels from South Alligator River that were later tested for radionuclides.

In an effort to improve the way in which we communicate with our Aboriginal stakeholders, the bi-monthly newsletter was changed from a simple letter format to a formal full-colour newsletter. The new design has allowed the use of photographs, maps and other visual representations to help with the communication process. The new format, along with the easy to read summaries of research work, has proved to be very popular with all stakeholders and eriss has had to increase print runs to keep up with demand.

eriss responded to Traditional Owner concerns about water quality when it was thought that a person became sick after drinking water from Island Billabong. The incident took place shortly before a cultural camp for 70 people was due to take place and as Island Billabong is downstream of the Ranger mine, there was some concern from the Traditional Owners that the water could be polluted. eriss sampled and tested the water for coliforms and faecal coliforms and for a suite of 68 heavy metals and other elements. From the results it was confirmed that there were high natural levels of coliforms and faecal coliforms, making the water unfit to drink. The tests also showed that the presence of heavy metals in Island Billabong was very low and did not pose a health threat.

Communication staff are assisting with an environmental radioactivity project to produce a video on the questions Aboriginal people have about uranium and the environment. Consultation with Aboriginal groups in Kakadu was undertaken to collect information on the concerns people have about uranium and the questions they would like answered. This project will be completed in 2001-02.

eriss and oss take an active role in community festivals and events where information displays and interactive educational activities are provided. These events provide eriss and oss with an opportunity to demonstrate techniques used in scientific research, such as the use of microscopes and the sorting of macroinvertebrates. These events provide an opportunity for the community to meet the eriss and oss staff. Information briefings were also conducted for associations and communities on issues as they arose. eriss has also formed an affiliation with the Ardjumarllarl Rangers from Oenpelli, and provides information and training sessions on environmental issues such as rehabilitation of minesites, airboat lessons and demonstrations of environmental monitoring techniques used by staff of the Supervising Scientist.

Cross cultural training was made available to all Supervising Scientist staff along with training on working with Aboriginal people for staff who would be involved in the employment and training programme. Plans are underway to offer Aboriginal language courses.

An internal guide for Supervising Scientist staff was produced on the Aboriginal associations that operate within the Alligator Rivers Region, their membership and the services they provide. The purpose of the guide is to raise awareness of the association boundaries and the services they provide.