2010 marks the 20 year anniversary of the University of Sydney’s Desert Ecology Research group’s first visit to the Simpson Desert. On every trip, Bedourie, the administrative centre of the Diamantina Shire in far Western Queensland, acts as the ‘gateway’ to and from the red dunes, big blue skies and research sites.
When the locals see the University Hiluxes roll into Bedourie at least three times a year they know the ‘rat catchers’ are back. But when it comes to what the students, volunteers and professors (who pass through town with binoculars around their shoulders and swags piled on the roof racks) actually do out there, most locals are not entirely sure.
This July, the Desert Ecology Research Group, in conjunction with Iconic Landscapes, will be holding a community consultation evening in Bedourie with the intention to shed
some light on what the ‘rat catchers’ occupy themselves with for all those weeks spent on the other side of the dunes! It will be a chance for the scientists, locals and Bush Heritage representatives to bridge communication gaps create a dialogue around existing issues.
When I was in Bedourie last December I had the opportunity to speak to some great local characters and this is brief snippet of what Gary, a carpenter had to say…
Are Bedourie locals interested in what’s happening in the desert, research wise?
We’re always curious when we first go out there to find out what they’re looking at and what they’re doing but after five minutes of talking to each of them it gets a bit much.
They [the researchers] traipse around the desert looking at animals. I can understand making reserves that these animals can all survive in but to stand there and watch them is beyond me.
Everybody’s been out there studying all those things for a long time. There must have been 1000s of people going through there. Surely they can work out what’s going on by now.
The thing I like most about being here [in Bedourie] is the people. It’s about community. It’s not about what’s running around on the ground. It’s a whole different way of life. You know everybody and everybody knows you. When people wave from their cars you know who they are.
Do you recognise a conflict of interests between graziers and organisations like Bush Heritage who have two properties in the area?
Most of the graziers these days are very concerned about their cattle numbers. They are very aware of the treatment to their land. You can’t overgraze or do all that sort of stuff. Here we’re a drought prone area and we rely on good land to survive. They’re very conscious of the amount of animals they’ve got on their land. They want to conserve the land without destroying it. They know what you can and can’t do.
You have to remember that without cattle, we wouldn’t have a town.
There would be no reason for us to be here without cattle. We’ve only got about 12 properties but if you talk about the people that ar
e connected to those properties… Properties need to roads, graders to maintain them, council, store to buy supplies and builders – like me. Without the industry, none of these services would be required.
Without grazing we’ve got nothing. What else are we going to do? We can’t manufacture. All we can do is graze. What are we going to do, make the whole lot National Park and all become rangers?!