It is of special interest that the 2018 Shoalhaven Australia Day Awards included Noel Webster as a person “making an outstanding contribution to the environment”.
This was a significant award and a thoroughly deserved accolade for a south coast Aboriginal man and employee of the NSW National Parks and Wildlife Service.
Auntie Nell Mooney also received an Award for her work with the Aboriginal community especially Aboriginal youth.
Noel Webster is a salt water man from the New South Wales south coast with Yuin Walbanja ancestry. The Pacific Black Duck “Umbarah” is the totem of the Yuin people.
Whilst Noel admits to some mixed feelings about the award, for him it recognizes the support and input of both family and community as a contribution towards environmental stewardship and the sharing of Indigenous knowledge.
His concern is that his work stems from the destruction of the environment since the time of colonisation.
As Noel comments,” Our young people are taking responsibility, they are the inspirational ones, I have been fortunate to walk alongside them on their journey to understand and protect our Mother Earth.”
“The knowledge they hold is empowering for all, it will be the emergence of these knowledge systems that will unite all Australians with each other and the environment, as one, as equal identities. Employing this philosophy will bridge the gap between humans and the environment. Belonging with each other and the environment, protecting, caring, nurturing as one, as custodians of our Country.”
“Nelson Mandela said ‘young people today are tomorrow’s leaders’. Truer words could not be spoken in regards to looking after Country. Investing in our youth pays big dividends.
Whilst Noel has a very specific commitment to environment he is also deeply involved in developing and empowering Aboriginal men in the Shoalhaven, particularly the young men.
In 2008 Noel was working with the NPWS as an Aboriginal Cadet Ranger when he was awarded the ‘Ray Kelly Award’ for his achievement in the ranger cadetship program.
That award by what is now the Office of Environment and Heritage, acknowledged his commitment and progress as a ranger.
It was a challenging time for Noel with work, full time study and family commitments to balance. These ten years on and with the 2018 award it may seem even more so for Noel.
Noel and two young Aboriginal men, Jacob Chant Morris and Adrian Webstermen gave a presentation in September last year at a Local Lands Services conference at Shoalhaven Heads.
This dealt with the concept of “cultural burning” and the contribution that Aboriginal burning techniques can make to the health of our bushland.
It also showcased the ability and talent of young Aboriginal men to present a cultural perspective.
This innovation has involved working across services involved with bushfires including Djuwin men’s group, Grand Pacific Health, Rural Fire Service and NPWS to facilitate the program. Noel has been a facilitator for that group.
The program reaches into traditional Aboriginal practices and techniques but applies these in a totally contemporary setting with other key people involved in burning and bushfire. One result is that the Aboriginal participants acquire the relevant qualification through the Rural Fire Service in bushfire management.
The NBT congratulates both Noel and Auntie Nell Mooney and acknowledges their contribution to life in the Shoalhaven.