In this month’s NACC Notes, our #PeopleOfNRM is Bush Heritage’s Aboriginal Partnership Manager Chontarle Bellottie!
Chontarle hails from Wardandi and Bibbulmun Country in Western Australia’s southwest corner, where the karri forests meet the sea. Geraldton marks a half-way point between Chonnie’s family’s Country and her husband’s Country, while also providing educational, cultural and sporting opportunities to their three children.
“My husband and I are grateful to live and work across Yamatji Land and Sea Country,” says Ms Bellottie, who is never far from the ocean.
“I have always felt in my koort (heart) connected with the land and sea. My grandmothers were denied their right to share cultural stories and identify as Aboriginal women, but this did not stop them from teaching me about the bush!”
Chontarle studied heritage and interpretive tourism, environmental sciences and health promotion after reaching out to other family members and finding a strong belonging among her communities and Country. For the past 23 years, Chonnie has worked across the natural resource management sector.
Currently, Chonnie is planning with several Aboriginal groups a series of workshops based around right way fire and cultural burning. These workshops provide an opportunity to learn about the impact and cultural importance of fire while also providing a way to map Country and share knowledge across family groups. This then has a positive impact land conservation and also benefits to people, Country and culture.
When it comes to career highlights, getting out on Country with families has been a real high point for Chonnie, who feels it is a privilege to be able to share in these special moments.
“I feel humbled to have experienced the joy, tears, stories and knowledge shared when being in the bush,” she says.
“I also feel that my role has a huge responsibility to ensure Traditional owners aspirations and values are not only being heard but that they are embedded in conservation management practises.”
Looking forward, Chontarle says the recognition of Traditional Owner knowledge systems and their importance to land management in Western Australia is vital in ensuring our lands and waters are protected and healthy.
“We need to support Aboriginal communities and their representative groups to lead in this space and ensure there is proper collaborative, right way science principle and ethical approach in research and management.”
For more information on Chonnie’s role at Bush Heritage, you can check out what they’re up to on their website (www.bushheritage.org.au) or on Twitter (@BushHeritageAus).