Tiwi people got the chance to see their investment in forestry up close recently at a Field Day organised on Melville Island by the Tiwi Plantations Corporation.
Brand new harvesting equipment has been landing on the islands, with the first shipment of Tiwi woodchips expected in November this year.
The Tiwi forestry project has been a roller coaster ride for Tiwi people, but they never doubted the vision of their leaders and their investment in the future.
“This is a very important day for us mob,” said Tiwi Land Council Chairman Gibson Illortamini at a field day to showcase the first harvesting. “We have come a long way.”
Gibson worked on the government forestry project in the mid-1970s and recalls meeting Cyril Kalippa at Paru “and we had a yarn about planting trees on our own land”.
Now that dream is one step closer to reality, his ambition is more young people “going to school and learning about looking after our land”.
“I just can’t get over today,” said Cyril Kalippa, the founding Chair of the Tiwi Land Council and Chairman of Tiwi Plantations.
“This is something we worked on more than 20 years ago when we had some meetings with Sylvatech. We thought it was an opportunity to do something for the future, for our people.”
“A couple of our colleagues have died (including) a very hard-working person. We have carried on since he left.
“For you, our future generation, this is the biggest thing I have experienced and we hope you will carry on what we tried to do for you,” Cyril told attendees at the field day.
Tiwi Forestry Workers
No one was prouder than the local Tiwi forestry workers at the recent forestry field day, as the first trees were harvested and millions of dollars of new equipment went on show.
David Austral, from Milikapiti, has been working with the Forestry Team and smiled as he saw six years’ slow, patient work feed logs to the woodchipping machines. The works team looks after the trees, carries out back-burning and manages the environmental programme, and monitoring of threatened species.
Like many, David was happy to see the start of harvesting and looks forward to inspiring more Tiwi workers – and his two young children - to seek jobs on the project. His sister Marbine also works in forestry and is now on maternity leave, and David said it would be good to see more women applying for jobs as well.
“It would be good to see all Tiwi workers.”