Community stories: 24 July 2023
Environs Kimberley (EK) is the peak not-for-profit environmental organisation for the remote Kimberley region of Western Australia. Since 1996 EK has been dedicated to conserving and protecting the Kimberley’s natural, environmental, and cultural values. EK has supported and coordinated cultural-natural resource management (CNRM) projects in the region since 2007.
EK collaborates respectfully and over the long term with Aboriginal rangers and their communities, First Nations groups, community groups, government, and scientists to apply traditional knowledge and the best scientific methods to CNRM projects including: invasive species and fire management; ecosystem restoration, threatened species, ecological survey, and monitoring; eco-cultural documentation and education.
EK’s Kimberley Community Seedbank (KCS) project was established in 2015 and EK has been working to develop the Seedbank into a sustainable social enterprise that furthers the conservation and protection of the Kimberley’s incredible natural and cultural values. In 2020, Environs Kimberley received a Strengthen Rural Communities (SRC) grant of $24,995, thanks to John T Reid Charitable Trusts, as funding towards Strengthening the Kimberley Community Seedbank: a sustainable social enterprise project.
A First Nations-led bush resource industry can support Aboriginal communities across the Kimberley to participate in economic development on their own terms and to undertake meaningful and sustainable work on Country. As a backdrop to this, the Australian bush resource industry has seen enormous growth over the past few decades, but despite this, a national survey by Bushfood Sensations (2019) found only 1% of the industry was led by First Nations people.
Hence, EK’s Sustainable Communities team has worked to build capacity for First Nations people to engage in and lead a Kimberley native plant resource industry. EK worked with four ranger groups to co-design business plans and complementary industry resources for two emerging social enterprises: Kimberley Seeds, and Wattleseed Collective where EK has supported Aboriginal collectors to develop skills in the exciting bush food and restoration industries to produce sustainable, socially responsible products.
The grant funded Environs Kimberley project management, co-design workshops, and the development of viable business models. EK delivered training to communities and ranger groups across the West Kimberley and established seed storage, roasting and cleaning infrastructure.
The Bardi Jawi Oorany Rangers, Karajarri Rangers, Nyangumarta Rangers, Yawuru Country Managers and Yiriman Women’s Bush Enterprise’s provided in-kind time and vehicle use for seed collection. EK provided in-kind time, seedbank and seed collecting equipment and coordinated volunteer activities. EK supported groups to develop their own business plans, financial models, packaging, marketing materials and a sales strategy.
EK coordinated the first pilot for commercial scale harvesting of wattleseed in 2022. The harvest saw the Wattleseed Collective gather and clean 40 kgs of (mostly) soap wattle (Acacia colei). This amazing effort resulted in sufficient product to enable Environs Kimberley to enter a product development phase and begin a process of securing access to markets for the coming year’s collections.
EK developed resources including a business plan template, a wattleseed harvesting guide, and wattleseed cleaning guide which are now available to share across the network of Kimberley-based Aboriginal-led businesses and individuals.
First Nations ranger programs are major employers in remote communities. By continuing to increase the capacity of the rangers in seed collection and social enterprise development, and working with other community members, Environs Kimberley is backing stronger communities to engage in the development of local, sustainable, conservation and cultural economies.