From the desk of Catherine, South Coast Enviro-Experiences. 

Historically, we have often prioritised the present over the future, tending to focus on what we have now rather than what will be available to us. The topic of discussion at this year’s Great Southern Great Science Symposium, engaged our local scientists, experts and citizen scientists to ask the question, “Are we discounting the future?”. Are our current actions and decisions, such as habitat destruction, pollution and resource consumption prioritising short-term gains at the expense of the long-term health and well-being of the environment and ecosystems?  

It was an honour to have one of Albany’s most respected Noongar Elders, Lester Coyne, welcome attendees and share his thoughts on the future, leading into the first conference question, “Where are we now?”, covering issues of prescribed burning on our fragile landscapes, the impact of rodenticides on wildlife, booming bitterns and the birth of a bird sanctuary, examining various aspects of human activities and their consequences on the environment.   

We learned about how Gondwana Link’s twenty one year program has involved many environmental projects, organisations and individuals who have helped with the health and resilience of ecosystems across the southwest of Australia and how the facilitation of cultural burnings on Noongar land can fit with contemporary processes of regeneration, fuel reduction and biodiversity conservation.   

Afternoon presentations focused on the “Custodians of the Future” with an increased importance put on the relationship of people to Country, in particular Indigenous engagement and the relevance of custodianship in the aftermath of the hard NO vote. The South Coast Enviro-Experiences project team gave a positive talk on how volunteers can make a difference to our local environment through environmental volunteering. Volunteering alongside individuals driven by a shared passion for achieving environmental outcomes can help to promote knowledge transfer across generations and communities, fostering relationships, connections and a network of innovative solutions, paving the way for growth and development of our natural capital. The Great Southern Science Council is working with the South Coast Enviro- Experiences project to deliver the mentoring program pairing emerging scientists with experienced professionals in an informal setting to share knowledge, enthusiasm, experience, and advice. 

A highlight of the symposium was the welcome of ‘real’ custodians for the future who provided youth perspectives; Hardy Croucher, giving us a comedic take on how the future looks now we are facing the challenges of climate change, and  Yazmin Ryan, a young active Wajarri Yamtji community member who talked of empowering and encouraging others through community performing arts. 

A special thanks to Katy Evans and Natalie Reeves from the Great Southern Science Council for pulling off this amazing event and to the speakers; Catherine Spaggiari  from Fire and Biodiversity WA, Brad Kneebone from Denmark Bird Group, Matthew Bowman from the Water Corporation, Gondwana Link’s Keith Bradby and John Underwood, Shaun Ossinger from Wilson Inlet Catchment Committee, South Coast NRM’s Dr Peter Twigg, Laura Bird and Catherine Johnston, and Hardy Croucher, Yazmin Ryan, and Wiebke Ebeling from UWA Marine Energy Research. 

Along with the mentoring program activity, the South Coast Enviro-Experiences volunteer web platform offers access to many more amazing volunteering activities across the South Coast.

The South Coast Enviro-Experiences project is supported by Lotterywest.