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Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2019 Week 07 Hansard (Wednesday, 31 July 2019) . . Page.. 2561 ..

North Mitchell Grasslands has recently been allocated funds by the ACT government to help conserve, manage and restore the grassland and habitat for related threatened species. These include the golden sun moth, Ginninderra pepper cress and striped legless lizard. There is the potential to trial and develop new approaches to grassy ecosystem restoration, encourage opportunities for continued cultural learning and practices, and provide an experience of nature. The reserve may also be used as a place of Indigenous education, sharing a community involvement and for education and research for people of all ages.

I recently participated in another workshop at the grasslands which gave community members and stakeholders an opportunity to express their views about the concept plan and offset proposals. The workshop involved a walk around key areas of the site and addresses from me, Peter Hazell from the Mulloon Institute, Donna Hazell from the New South Wales Biodiversity Trust, Clare McInnes from the environmental offset team, Karissa Preuss from the Ginninderra Catchment Group and Geoff Robertson from Friends of Grasslands.

Overall it has been a busy few months in the Yerrabi community since our June sittings, and I am looking forward to being back out and about in the community.

Vanuatu Independence Day

MRS KIKKERT (Ginninderra) (5.54): Yesterday was Independence Day for Vanuatu, Australia’s neighbour on the other side of the Coral Sea. As is the case with many Pacific Islands nations, Vanuatu has close historical links to this country. The New Hebrides group of islands, as it was then called, was one of the major sources for workers brought into Australia in the second half of the 19th century to provide cheap labour on Australian plantations. It is estimated that before this practice ended approximately 60,000 South Sea Islanders were imported through a practice commonly known as blackbirding, which often relied on deception to coerce people into leaving their native lands for the promise of jobs or other benefits and even on outright kidnapping.

We do not know how many of the labourers who came to Australia were specifically from the New Hebrides, but at one point more than half of the adult male population of several of the islands had been taken away to work. This has had a lasting impact on independent Vanuatu in some significant ways. Although most labourers were on three-year contracts it is estimated that 30 per cent of the South Sea Islanders who work in Australia died during their three years. This resulted in significant depopulation, meaning that there are fewer people in Vanuatu now than there may well have been in previous centuries.

Modern Vanuatu is a beautiful nation comprising 82 volcanic islands, only 65 of which are inhabited. Its wet and warm tropical weather have carpeted these islands with lush tropical forests. To share a fun fact, it was in certain of these forests on the island of Pentecost that the precursor to bungee jumping originated. Land diving, as it is properly called, involves men carefully selecting tree vines, tying them around their ankles and then diving head first from wooden towers that soar up to 30 metres into the air. The best dives are those where the man’s shoulders actually brush the ground.

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