Looking after country

Ngunawal Elder Wally Bell recently shared some fascinating insights into the living Ngunawal culture and heritage of Ginninderra and broader Ngunawal Country.

“Dhaura Nuna, Dhaura Ngunawal, Yumalundi,” were the words spoken in traditional language by Wally Bell at the recent ‘Welcome to Country’ for community members at the Ginninderra shrub planting day, during National Reconciliation Week.

“This land is Ngunawal land and welcome – on behalf of the Ngunawal people and myself – welcome to Ngunawal country. Please enjoy your stay on country.”

Above: Ngunawal Elder, Wally Bell leading the Welcome to Country at Ginninderra.

As a Ngunawal Elder, Custodian and Knowledge Holder, Wally oversees Welcome to Country ceremonies, but also has a responsibility to look after, and pass on, Ngunawal knowledge.

“It’s important to understand that we have a living culture. Our next generation is learning about the way that we used to do things and part of my role is to be able to impart that knowledge to the younger generation and wider community.”

Above: Ngunawal Elder, Wally Bell leading the Welcome to Country at Ginninderra.

“As Aboriginal people, we have a strong connection to country and we want to convey that to others so that we can develop an understanding, and then together, we can look after country.”

Sustainability principles were central to the way people lived upon the land, according to Wally, who also leads the Buru Ngunawal Aboriginal Corporation and Mulanggang Traditional Aboriginal Landcare Group.

“How we managed the land was quite different to farming practices, because we lived on the land, we listened to the land as it ‘spoke’ to us, and we cared for the land.”

Above: Wally Bell discussing scar trees at Ginninderra.

“We only used the resources that we needed and then we moved onto the next place. This allowed the last place to regenerate and produce bush tucker and bush medicine or whatever we needed.”

“This place is significant because it highlights our occupation of the region,” Wally said. “While it is one little place it tells a story, and is part of a larger story. It is telling the story about how we used the natural landscape and its features to survive for thousands of years.

A number of remnant scar trees at Ginninderra are one indication of how the landscape was used.

“Scar trees are used for many different purposes. Most of the tree scars here are small in size, indicating the bark has been removed for coolamons to transport various bush tucker. These would have been used to carry acacia seed, yam daisy, chocolate lily and bulbine lily – all of those small tubers and seeds that were important food sources for Aboriginal people.

Above: Scar Tree at Ginninderra.

There are many other scar trees around the place that indicate different uses. Large scars can indicate canoe trees and medium-sized scars shields or other containers.

The efforts to protect trees and restore a shrub layer in the woodlands at Ginninderra is also something that resonates with Wally.

“To Aboriginal people, trees are very important because they are a spiritual connection to the land. The trees are cleansing the air, and our belief is that we use the Eucalypts in cleansing ceremonies as well as in ceremonial dance.”

“These are spiritual aspects of our cultural lore. We come from the land and we are here for a little while, we look after the land and then we are returned to the land.”

Creating the future through science platforms

CSIRO is investing in Future Science Platforms to turn Australia’s future challenges into opportunities that will create a better future.

Our future world is being shaped by the science we do today. Future Science Platforms (FSPs) are multi-year, multi-disciplinary investments in science that underpin innovation and that has the potential to help reinvent and create new industries for Australia. Here is a summary of the visions behind eight of CSIRO’s Future Science Platforms:

Active Integrated Matter

Combining materials, robotics, processing and sensing technologies and autonomous science to lead ground-breaking advances at the interface of big data, advanced autonomous systems, and materials science. These inventions and advances will drive the i-manufacturing or manufacturing 4.0 revolution and put early adopter industries ahead of the competition.

Deep Earth Imaging

In the future, Australia’s minerals, energy and water resources will come from far greater depths in the Earth and from deep offshore sources, but our ability to find and exploit these resources is limited by the deep and complex cover of sediments and weathered material that covers 80 per cent of Australia’s land mass. The science of Deep Earth Imaging will help us more precisely image subsurface rock properties to unlock the potential of this vast and relatively under-explored area.


Digiscape is about harnessing the digital revolution for Australian farmers and land managers. We will solve multiple real-life knowledge shortfalls in the land sector simultaneously by building a common big data infrastructure that will support next generation decision making and transform agricultural industries and environmental action.


Environomics aims to reinvent how we measure and monitor ecosystem health, predict biodiversity responses to environmental change, manage biological resources, detect biosecurity threats and more. This next generation of environmental science will be based on genomics, phenomics, big data informatics and simulation.

Hydrogen Energy Systems

Australia has access to vast energy resources through sun, wind, biomass, natural gas and coal, all of which can be used to produce hydrogen and/or the desired energy carrier compound. The fuel could be used in transport, power generation and to offset more carbon-intensive resources, in Australia and internationally.

Precision Health

This is about working closely with the community to develop a tailored healthcare paradigm.  Precision Health will focus on creating an integrated platform that can be used to proactively manage a person’s health throughout the course of their life through highly tailored food, nutrition and lifestyle interventions.

Probing Biosystems

A revolution in healthcare through devices and systems to obtain real-time information from living organisms about their health and well-being. This will lead to the ability to provide health and medical interventions that are timely, customised and highly specific. Innovative autonomous sensing technology also strengthens future biosecurity control.

This FSP will play a role in responsible development of SynBio technology – one of the fastest growing areas of modern science. This will enable us to create biological systems and devices to support global developments and contribute to advances in areas including manufacturing, industrial biotechnology, environmental remediation, biosecurity, agriculture, and healthcare research.

Hydrogen research at CSIRO. The creation of a Hydrogen FSP will enable technologies to promote solar energy exports, as well as providing low emissions energy solutions


Thanks a million for a mountain of planting!

A huge thank you once again to all the volunteers who planted six large patches of shrubs into the Box Gum Woodland and Dry Forest at Ginninderra.

As the end of the second planting day (May 27) approached, we still had an army of planters and a frenzy of activity as the last of 1500 shrubs went into the ground near the old scribbly gum forest.

“It was a fantastic effort by everyone involved,” said CSIRO Senior Ecologist and planting day organiser, Jacqui Stol. “Over the two days, we managed to plant every last shrub across the six 25×25 metre plots. This wouldn’t have been possible without the great efforts from the 100 plus community volunteers.”

Jacqui also gave a ‘shout out’ to the Well Station Cubs, who have taken part in all four planting days at Ginninderra across 2017 and 2018.

“The cubs were really enthusiastic and did not want to leave until all the plants were in the ground.”

“We had some people digging holes and some planting, while others supplied the plants, guards and stakes or filled buckets and watered plants. The teamwork and camaraderie was lovely to see, with people really seeming to enjoy the day.”

The 2018 planting days introduced a range of ‘dry forest’ shrub species that will attract a wide range of native woodland birds. These plantings complement the 3500 shrubs planted in the Box Gum Woodlands at Ginninderra in 2017, which have recorded a 90% survival rate and excellent growth rates.

“It is so pleasing to know that the 2017 plantings are already making a difference,” says Jacqui.

“During the week our bird survey experts observed some Scarlet Robins foraging in one of the shrub plots. Providing habitat and foraging areas for this declining woodland bird species is one of our key objectives, but it’s very unusual to have an impact so quickly.”

In addition to planting, volunteers received a welcome to country by Ngunawal Elder and Custodian, Wally Bell. During a break in planting, community members took the opportunity to visit a scar trees in the nearby scribbly gum forest, where Wally shared his knowledge about the indigenous history and heritage associated with the area and broader Ginninderra catchment.

Planters also enjoyed barista coffee and hot chocolate from the Our Dream Cafe mobile van, and barbecue lunch catered for by the Hall and District Collectors Club.

CSIRO extends a special thanks to all the planters, our event partners, Ginninderra Catchment Group, Wally Bell and Mulanggang Traditional Aboriginal Landcare Group, Our Dream café for refreshments, Horizon coaches for onsite transport, and Evatt Primary School P&C and Hall and District Collectors Club for barbecue lunches. You all made this event a great success!