New Tasmania Parks and Wildlife Service general manager Jason Jacobi brings a wealth of experience to his latest role.
But his history of returning land to its traditional owners emerges as one of the more significant focal points of his career.
Mr Jacobi took the Tasmania Parks job in January.
I hope I bring some real knowledge and understanding about the importance of land to Aboriginal people into this new role.Jason Jacobi
As senior executive at Queensland Parks and Wildlife Service, he spent 18 years managing national parks and state forests in the Sunshine State.
Mr Jacobi said he believed he brought a “sound” knowledge of area management practices to his role in Tasmania.
His biggest source of pride was clearly his history of engaging in productive dialogue with Queensland indigenous communities.
“A lot of my role [was] associated with returning land to the traditional owners, particularly in Cape York, under the Cape York Peninsula Aboriginal Land model,” Mr Jacobi said.
“In Cape York we worked very closely with traditional owner groups to jointly manage national parks and park estate.
“And I learnt a lot during that period in terms of how to engage with traditional owners and Aboriginal people on Cape York, and understand the importance of working on country.”
Mr Jacobi noted that getting Aboriginal people back onto country had the capacity to bring them economic benefits and to enrich their spiritual vitality.
“I hope I bring some real knowledge and understanding about the importance of land to Aboriginal people into this new role, as well,” he said.
While Mr Jacobi said it was too early to say whether land handovers would be on Parks’ agenda, he did say joint management initiatives would be pursued under his watch.
Joint management involves the state government working with traditional landowners in order to provide better custodianship of the land.
“I’m certainly aware that there are opportunities for us to engage more closely with Aboriginal people in Tasmania, particularly around joint management,” Mr Jacobi said.
He stressed that joint management offered benefits to both interested parties.
“For Aboriginal people, who have a very strong cultural connection to the land, it’s very important for them … to get back onto the land, and to undertake traditional practices,” Mr Jacobi said.
“Bringing Aboriginal people back onto land is a very important part of supporting their spiritual connection to country.
“My experience is that where you can get aboriginal people back onto their country, they can develop a tourism product, such as taking guided tours, or running cultural walks or leading interpretive programs.
“There’s an opportunity for them to actually drive economic benefit and create jobs for aboriginal people, which is a great outcome, particularly in regional areas.”
And Mr Jacobi said national parks were integral to getting indigenous Tasmanians back onto country.
“[National parks are] largely in their natural state, they’re not affected by mining or logging necessarily, they have unique natural values, and, obviously, extraordinary cultural values that are protected,” he said.
“And that’s very important to Aboriginal people.
“So national parks can often become the central focus for getting aboriginal people back on country.”
In terms of the potential benefits joint management could provide the state, Mr Jacobi said the exchange of ancient wisdom would be highly valued.
One such piece of wisdom would be indigenous fire management practice, which could prove invaluable in mitigating bushfires across the state.
“We can learn a lot from the Aboriginal people and the way they traditionally manage country,” Mr Jacobi said.
“So it’s very important for us to work closely with them to understand what some of the historic cultural practices might have been.
“And that is very important in terms of how we then manage the land with them into the future.”
Mr Jacobi also highlighted that having aboriginal people working on country would allows Parks to “maximise” their resources.
“I can focus our park rangers on particular activities.
“And Aboriginal people can support us to deliver that work, as well.
“So there are mutual benefits around joint management that make it very, very worthwhile.”
Mr Jacobi said much could be learnt from observing how indigenous Australians “read” the landscape.
“My own history in Queensland has been working with Aboriginal people to not only learn from them, but also help them to understand how they might be able to manage their country to become healthy again,” he said.
In light of plans to open up parts of the Tarkine to 4WD tracks, Mr Jacobi assured people that Aboriginal cultural sites would be taken into account.
“The appropriate siting of existing roads or any new proposals is very important,” he said.
“Planning and design of infrastructure, whether it be roads or tracks or even buildings, must take into consideration the cultural and natural values of the site.”
“It’s very important to make sure that we’re thinking about the future of our national park estate - how can we make it better, how can we manage the park estate to mitigate against any risks that might emerge.”