Legislative Council: Thursday, June 02, 2022


Aboriginal Fisheries Officer Career Pathway Program

The Hon. R.P. WORTLEY (14:28): My question is to the Minister for Primary Industries and Regional Development. Will the minister inform the chamber about the Aboriginal Fisheries Officer Career Pathway Program?

The Hon. C.M. SCRIVEN (Minister for Primary Industries and Regional Development, Minister for Forest Industries) (14:28): I thank the honourable member for his question. Fisheries officers play an incredibly important role right across our state in protecting and preserving fish stocks, educating those who share marine resources both recreationally and commercially, detecting and preventing offences within fisheries and upholding the law when it comes to fisheries legislation that we set here in this place.

Fisheries officer positions, I am told, are highly sought after. Those who fulfil these roles are multiskilled and passionate about their jobs. Indeed, when I met with two of our fisheries officers in Whyalla last week, they certainly fit that bill: very passionate and clearly very skilled in a variety of ways.

While needing to understand all aspects of fishing and how it fits within complex state and national laws associated with commercial and recreational fishing, they also need to be able to communicate effectively with a range of diverse communities and cultures about compliance and regulation so that we can sustainably manage our aquatic resources. Their roles are educational as much as they are compliance-based. That is why it is important that fisheries officers reflect the diversity of the community in which they serve and this, of course, includes the Aboriginal communities where such an important part of the culture is held within Aboriginal traditional fishing.

In South Australia, Aboriginal traditional fishing is recognised by the Fisheries Management Act 2007 and provides for the development of Aboriginal traditional management plans, in conjunction with existing and/or new Indigenous land use agreements. In 2016, the Aboriginal Fisheries Officer Career Pathway Program was established, becoming the first program of its type to be implemented in South Australia. The program is dedicated to meeting obligations under the act to provide opportunities for Aboriginal people but also to have a substantial benefit to fisheries management across the state.

This highly successful program includes extensive training and professional development over a two-year period which sees the participants obtain skills that meet the requirements to transition to authorised fisheries officers. The trainees are involved in day-to-day operations, and that includes both overt and covert operations and at-sea inspections aboard the fisheries patrol vessel The Southern Sea Ranger, which I look forward to having the opportunity to get on board myself in the future.

PIRSA provides approximately $800,000 annually to fund the program which currently employs five Aboriginal people, including three fisheries officers—one based in Mount Gambier and two in Yorketown—one traditional fisheries management officer and one traditional fisheries manager. These roles, in particular the fisheries officers, are representative of some of the key Aboriginal sea nation communities, including Boandik in the Limestone Coast and Narungga nation on the Yorke Peninsula.

The program thus far has seen an 80 per cent completion rate of the two-year program but I am told that 100 per cent of participants have either gone on to other roles within PIRSA or in the fisheries and aquaculture industry, which I think is an incredible outcome. The participants are role models within their communities and the program provides a strong base for others like it to be implemented. The program, and its resulting appointments to ongoing roles, has also strengthened the positive relationships between Aboriginal communities and government across the state, while at the same time improving fisheries and aquaculture management and compliance efforts.

I look forward to this program continuing and hearing of all the successes of those who are involved in it in the future. The government and my department remain committed to working together with all Aboriginal sea nations, communities and other parts of the fishing industry to sustainably manage our precious aquatic resources.