The Green Gown Awards are administered by Australasian Campuses Towards Sustainability and are considered the most prestigious recognition of sustainability excellence in the tertiary education sector in Australasia. The awards recently recognised the University of Sydney for its Mapping, protecting and enriching Aboriginal cultural heritage landscapes project, which fosters a Caring for Country approach reflected in the University's Sustainability and Indigenous One Sydney, Many People strategies.
Professor Lisa Jackson Pulver, Deputy Vice-Chancellor (Indigenous Strategy and Services), said the collaborative project demonstrates the University’s commitment to respecting the environmental knowledge and practices of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples.
"Our goal is to embed Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples’ knowledges, skills, concepts and ways of life across our teaching and research; to strengthen our knowledge and co-practice of caring for Country and foster a sense of custodianship and responsibility towards the environment for the benefit of future generations."
The award-winning project focused on the cultural landscape of Llara Farm, part of the Faculty of Science and Sydney Institute of Agriculture Plant Breeding Institute near Narrabri, New South Wales. It was spearheaded by Associate Professor Rosanne Quinnell and Dr Rebecca Cross from the Faculty of Science and Rachel Gale, Head of Open Spaces.
In collaboration with the Narrabri Local Aboriginal Land Council (NLALC) and ARC Heritage, University staff from the Faculty of Science and Open Spaces team conducted an Aboriginal Cultural Heritage Assessment to protect culturally significant sites and sustainably regenerate the landscape.
"Our approach was founded on agency, co-design, and mutually beneficial partnerships. This ensured that every stage of the project involved the active engagement of the traditional Gamilaroi custodians and knowledge holders," said Associate Professor Quinnell.
The project identified and recorded culturally modified trees, rock holes and grinding features at Llara Farm, emphasising the importance of protecting these sites. The collaboration will be extended beyond the assessment to include workshops involving community stakeholders, LALC members and University staff to generate recommendations and landscape action plans.
A major planting initiative has been proposed to establish a 'green belt' protecting sites against climate and livestock, while also repatriating the area with local and culturally significant native species. The project will involve collaborative community tree planting events with local communities, University staff and students.
In addition to delivering on the University’s Sustainability and Indigenous Strategies, the Mapping, protecting and enriching Aboriginal cultural heritage landscapes project is contributing to the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs 17, 15, and 10), through its emphasis on partnerships for goals, life on land, and reducing inequalities.
Due to the project’s success it has been further funded by the University to extend its impact to the Camden campus. This assessment is being undertaken by Dharawal Environment and Heritage, an Aboriginal owned and operated enterprise headed by Traditional Owners. As well as providing a case model for reciprocal and co-designed projects with LALCs and local communities, the project has forged new considerations for future campus planning working with stakeholders, multi-disciplinary and professional teams.
Following the Australasia award, the University of Sydney will enter the International Green Gown Awards in this category, to be held in early 2024.