Fingal Youth Dive Deep to Care for Country
Article Courtesy of Tweed Valley Weekly, with words by Jo Kennett
A group of young Indigenous Fingal Head residents recently completed their PADI Open Water Diver certificate as part of the 2021 Boonigyah Eco Ranger program, passing on the knowledge and responsibility of Caring for Country to the next generation. The program is managed by local environment group Green Heroes in collaboration with Tweed Byron Local Aboriginal Land Council, and sponsored by the Foundation of National Parks & Wildlife, and Tweed Club Grants.
“All the participating youth have lived in Fingal Head their entire lives and have always felt connected to the water,” Green Heroes Project Manger Sarah Jantos said. “This weekend, however, I observed a new flame ignite in the hearts of these young people when they considered Caring for Country in light of their new experiences and knowledge. They are completely motivated and inspired to do more”.
With the team of qualified instructors from Kirra Dive, the young people participated in Project AWARE- a program that supports divers acting in their own communities to protect the ocean, “with a focus on implementing lasting change in two core areas: shark conservation and marine debris.”
“The experience of breathing underwater was amazing,” one of the newly certified youth PADI divers told Sarah. “I never realised how many fish and organisms live down there. I can’t wait to get back in the water.”
The Boonigyah team will dive at Cook Island as part of Project AWARE in coming weeks. Sarah said the Tweed Byron Local Aboriginal Land Council, along with Elders, continue to preserve what is a critical refuge for land and aquatic native wildlife at Boonigyah (Fingal Head) while heavy development continues in surrounding areas. “Many endangered species seek safe haven on Letitia Spit including (but not limited to ) many migratory bird species, glossy black cockatoos, beach stone curlews, oystercatchers, small bird species, brush tailed phascogales, loggerhead turtle (nests) and many other species,” she said.
“Caring for Country is a theme central to Aboriginal Culture.”
Tweed Byron Local Aboriginal Land Council CEO Leweena Williams said, “Elders fought diligently to preserve and protect natural areas in Fingal for many decades, they have continued this cultural responsibility and the Boonigyah Eco ranger program is a result of this hard fought work.” ” It is this diligent protection of natural areas in Fingal Head that continues today as Tweed Byron Local Aboriginal Land Council works together with Elders, community and community groups,” Sarah said. “The eco rangers program aims to help impart knowledge and and the responsibility of preserving the land for the benefit of native flora, fauna and community. These continued efforts are simply part of the same story the Elders have continued to ‘Keep Fingal Special’.”
As part of the 2021 Boonigyah Eco Ranger program, Green Heroes and the Tweed Byron Local Aboriginal Land Council will continue preservation of native species and natural areas in Fingal and Cook Island via the Eco Rangers program for local children and youth. Sarah said that upcoming events include nesting box workshops, habitat gardens, weed removal and koala tree planting. Last week at the Tweed Shire Council Sustainability awards for 2021, Green Heroes was chosen as a trophy winner in the Wildlife and Habitat Conservation category for their outstanding efforts in the Tweed.