There are lots of things about our country that we value, the animals and plants, the landscape, the shelters and campsites in the ranges. All these things have great cultural and spiritual importance for us and we have stories about many of these things that help us to understand them and keep them healthy. Everything about our country has value, but it helps us to talk about some of these things as “Targets”. There are many things we would like to do to help our country and to keep it healthy, but because of limitations in the number of people to do the work and constraints in funding we have to prioritise our work so focusing on targets helps us to do this. Targets are a feature of Mawonga that the community wish to focus their energy and resources on protecting. Targets help us to focus our activities so that the actions we do can have the greatest benefit on the ground. We thought a lot about what we value most about our country. We spoke to people at community cultural camps, community meetings and individually to help us identify what were the most important and decided we will focus on the following seven targets.
1. Ngiyampaa Wangaaypuwan and Aboriginal people
2. Ngiyampaa Language, cultural knowledge and practices
3. Cultural places
4. Thingkaa – totems and culturally important animals
5. Pilaarr - Belah and Brigalow Woodlands
6. Maluman - Mallee Woodlands
7. Nhiilyi - Nelia shrubland
Health of Targets
We also decided on how healthy each target is now and the main threats that stop each target being healthy. Then we have put the indicators the things we’ll be watching for; clear signs ways of measuring if we are reaching our goals, or indications that we need to do things differently. These indicators are also found in our accompanying Mawonga IPA plan for Monitoring, Evaluation, Reporting and Improvement (MERI) plan.
Ngiyampaa Wanagaaypuwan and Aboriginal people
Ngiyampaa Wangaaypuwan Mayi (people) are the traditional custodians of Mawonga our broader traditional ngurrampaa (country/camp world) is the dry region of western New South Wales between three rivers - the Darling-Barwon to the north, the Bogan River to the east and the Lachlan River to the south. There are three main clan groups Nelia Tree, Belah Tree and Stone country people, whose areas of responsibility overlap each other. Keewong Family descendants, Ngiyampaa-Ngemba, Nelia and Belah Tree Mayi together with Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal extended family members formed Winangakirri Aboriginal Corporation (WAC) in 2005 to maintain, strengthen and promote Aboriginal culture in western NSW. To focus on the health of Ngiyampaa and Aboriginal people within the Griffiths, Lake Cargelligo region, to improve our health through accessing and looking after our country, our culture and sharing this with the broader community. We are working to drive our own future, to have our own governance, to provide training and employment opportunities on country that builds our skills and capacity that leads to community betterment. Our people, our children are our main focus as they are bought up in town and suffering from the disadvantages and social impacts of dispossession. They experience disconnection, disengagement and are turning to drugs and alcohol to cope, it’s leading to mental health challenges and making our kids sick. Being on our country, being taught our culture, our connections and knowing where we come from improves our health and wellbeing, supporting our children to grow up strong, healthy and proud.
Ngiyampaa Language, cultural knowledge and practices
In the beginning Biamie and the Spirit Beings formed ngurrampaa (country/camp world) and gave our ancestors a set of rules to live and take care of Country by. Our ancestors passed down this knowledge through language, stories, songs, dance and ceremonies on how we are one with the spiritual landscape. Ngiyampaa cultural knowledge is central to achieving our vision. When we refer to Ngiyampaa cultural knowledge we include our history, stories, language, families connection to country, and the skills and responsibilities for looking after ourselves and our country into the future. Mawonga was traditionally and still is today an important teaching and learning place of language, cultural knowledge and practices for Ngiyampaa people. It is a significant place in ceremonial events, for hunting, family and clan interaction. It is part of a men’s initiation journey where traditionally it was part of a young Ngiyampaa boys transition into manhood where they trekked through the Roto Hills taking part in “borba or purrpa” (ceremonies) towards initiation, their first hunt and social recognition as a man. The novices’ close and extended family moved along with the ceremonial party camping at a discrete distance. Mawonga has a lot of our bushtucker and medicines where we are able to teach and pass on knowledge about when and how to hunt or harvest, to cook or prepare and use them. Bush meats like kangaroo and in recent time’s rabbit. To teach our children and community this knowledge and the stories associated with them in language. Through reviving the recordings of our Elders and learning from those few language speakers we still have with us today so we can have many more community members speaking language and holding cultural and ecological knowledge (see appendices 1-4: for our native plant and animal list in language and their cultural uses).
There are many Ngiyampaa cultural places and physical sites of significance on Mawonga such as those associated with the initiation purrpa (ceremonies) and hunting grounds. There is a series of small caves and rock shelters along the ridgeline from Yathong in the north and running into adjoining property Coombie to the south-west named the Keginni and Merrimerriwa Ranges where initiates and their families camped. The shelters are full of art sites painted with our relatives hand prints, stencils of tools and animals, we know these as the Yathong, Coombie and Mawonga rock art sites, painted around the turn of the century (19th) they are some of the most recent rock art sites in the Cobar area. East McDonald’s Tank is a purra (ceremony) site where one of the last known initiation purra happened in 1925. There are our traditional and more contemporary camping grounds, burial places, scar trees and quarry places where stone tools were created.
Thingkaa – totems and culturally important animals
Thingkaa our totems, our relationship with these culturally important animals are the backbone of our society, it is our moiety system, it sets up our relationships to each other, it governs our social interaction, our passage on country, where we can go, where we can hunt, our responsibilities for looking after country and who we can marry. Some of the culturally important animals to us include Kultarr, Western Gray Kangaroos, Wallaroo, Black Duck and Yungkan (Mallee Fowl).
Pilaarr - Belah and Brigalow Woodlands
The Pilaarr Belah (Casurina cristata) – Brigalow – Wilga Woodlands found mostly in the south east of Mawonga are a culturally important, for some of our people take their cultural identity as belonging to the Pilaarr tree. Pilaarr is a hard wood that traditionally our men made their spears from. Brigalow (Acacia harpophylla), are considered endangered within other bioregions adjacent to but not within the Cobar Peneplain. Though not listed as threatened within the Cobar Peneplain, Brigalow dominated woodlands are still rare within the bioregion. Furthermore these stands are near the southern limit of the Brigalow distribution.
Maluman - Mallee Woodlands
There is a large stand of old growth Mallee forest in the east of Mawonga. The condition of the Maluman (Mallee) is good and it is home to the nationally vulnerable and NSW endangered Yungkan- Mallee Fowl. Active Mallee Fowl mounds have been observed in the large eastern section of Mallee. Mallee woodlands adjacent to the eastern boundary of Mawonga were aerial surveyed for the presence of endangered Malleefowl in March 2011 and October 2013. The first survey detected three active mounds and one inactive mound. Remote camera sensing was employed to monitor nest activity and feral animal visitation. During this period foxes, cats, feral pigs and goats were detected throughout the site visiting active mounds. The October 2013 aerial census detected 15 nests within the same area (2 active, 13 inactive) The woodland targets are home to many animals especially the woodland birds, mammals and reptiles that depend on them. A number of these are nationally vulnerable like the Grey-Crowned Babbler, Gilbert Whistler or endangered Red Lored Whistler, small marsupials Kultarr and Ninganui, the Yellowbellied Sheath tail bat and the Marble-faced Delma.
Nhiilyi - Nelia shrublands
Nhiilya (Nelia), Acacia loderia is a culturally important plant from which some of our people take their cultural identity as Nhiilyi-kiyalu (Nelia Tree) people who are strongly associated with the western portion of Ngiyampaa ngurrampaa (country). The roots of Nhiilyi were used to make palkaa (boomerangs). Acacia loderi is endemic to Australia found mainly in New South Wales and along the borders with South Australia and Victoria. There is a small stand of Nhiilya on the southern boundary of Mawonga. Nhiilya shrublands are listed as an Endangered Ecological Community in NSW. The health of their populations outside of Mawonga is declining. The shrub layer on Mawonga shows an abundance and diversity of the shrub layer unmatched in the drier mallee areas further west. The main threats to the Nhiilya shrublands community in the region include clearing of remnants, lack of regeneration of Nelia due to heavy grazing pressure from goats, stock, rabbits and wildfires. We have fenced the stand to make an exclusion plot to protect it by reducing grazing pressure on suckers by goats and to enhance natural regeneration.