Here at Walkers Journal, we acknowledge the Traditional Custodians and Owners of the land and sea we are so fortunate to explore. We are proud to support Country Needs People, an ACNC-registered charity and non-profit in Australia supporting Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander sustainable management of land and sea. Recently, we had a chat with founding chair Denis Rose and CEO Paddy O’Leary about their work with Country Needs People and visions for the future.
Denis Rose is a Gunditjmara person with 40 years experience in Aboriginal land and cultural heritage management. His career includes roles as a park ranger, federal bureaucrat, local activist and land manager and senior Traditional Owner, as well as being founding chair of Country Needs People – to which he responds: “Oh, they might have given me a fancy title like that!”
Denis’ modesty is in contrast with the huge scale of his achievements. He was part of a team that pioneered Indigenous Protected Areas, a type of protected area that has grown since the mid-90s to represent just under half of all Australia’s protected areas (somewhere close to 70 million hectares, Denis explains). Denis is also a key figure in developing the Budj Bim cultural landscape, Budj Bim rangers and World Heritage listing.
Denis furthers the agenda of Country Needs People in supporting Traditional Owner partners to protect the natural and cultural values of their own local area, generating economic and social benefits for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people. “One of my great aims is to let people know this is not a grants program, it’s not something [for] Aboriginal people just [to] give them something to do.” Denis adds: “[It’s] real jobs, real work and it benefits all of Australia.”
Now based on his home Country, Gunditjmara country in Western Victoria, Denis’ days are ostensibly busy. “There’s always something to do and there’s always a nice variety,” he explains.
Denis singles out the Great South West Walk as his favourite on Country. Having worked on some of the 250-kilometre track in the past, he describes the variation of scenery from cliff, coastal dune, river and forest as a highlight. “My favourite part of it is around the Cape Nelson area. It’s a narrow strip of coastal bush but it’s just a nice place, it’s close to Portland … but far enough out that you could be out by yourself anywhere.”