Wayne Penn

Byron bush care course a little bare

BYRON Bay bush regenerator Bob Smeuninx has two passions - the Australian bush and encouraging local Aborigines to become its qualified carers.

Otherwise known as Belgium Bob, the Conservation and Land Management teacher and environmentalist has spent the 13 years since he migrated from Belgium discovering his passion for nature.

As well as years of involving himself in local restoration projects, Belgium Bob's latest mission is to attract a group of Aborigines in the Byron area to undertake an indigenous land management course.

Although the course is auspiced through Wollongbar TAFE, Bob said a lack of applicants meant it could not go ahead in the Byron Bay area.

“I have five hopeful Aborigines signed up for the course. However we need a minimum of 10 to get the go-ahead,” Mr Smeuninx said.

The course focuses on bush regeneration techniques and how to clean up nature reserves on the North Coast.

“The course aims to help Aborigines reconnect with the land and become qualified professionals in the process,” he said.

Assisted by groups such as the National Parks and Wildlife Service, local councils and private grants, the course already exists for a group of indigenous participants at Cabbage Tree Island.

“The numbers are needed for a Byron equivalent which would be held at the National Parks depot in Byron Bay,” Mr Smeuninx said.

He said word-of-mouth had helped to raise awareness about the course, but he was hoping the end of the holidays would see a lot more interest.

“I have really listened to local indigenous people and they often talk about caring for the country,” Mr Smeuninx said.

“I am trying to be a mentor for the younger generation in passing on this message,” he said.

For more information about the indigenous land management course contact Belgium Bob on 0447 898 097.



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