Fingal man makes history
FINGAL man Josh Slabb's passion for the ocean and his Aboriginal heritage has inspired him to become the first indigenous Marine Park Ranger in New South Wales.
Mr Slabb graduated from his bachelor of environmental science degree at Southern Cross University on Saturday, but has juggled his studies with work at the marine park since 2006.
The 29-year-old fourth-generation Fingal man has rarely ventured far from the ocean.
“I have grown up here in Fingal and my family has a big association with our Aboriginal heritage in Fingal,” Mr Slabb said. “For as long as I can remember, I have been in the surf, whether it is fishing or surfing, just having the time of my life. That is why I am so happy to be a marine park ranger, I am able to give back to the ocean in the way of conservation ... it is an opportunity for me to repay what the ocean has given me all my life.”
Mr Slabb is a talented surfer and competed at the elite level as a junior, travelling around the world on the professional junior circuit.
He returned home to run a surf school with his brother before working as a ranger in Tweed's national parks.
When a traineeship came up with the Marine Park Authority he took it, then went full-time in the job when his university study finished at the beginning of this year.
Work at the Cape Byron Marine Park sees Mr Slabb out in a 6.2-metre rigid-hull inflatable conducting research with Baited Remote Underwater Video Survey (BRUVS). They set the camera on the sea floor, about 40 metres down and leave it there for half-an-hour, before pulling it back up to examine the footage.
“Our core business is researching the waterways of the marine park; we do a lot of survey-based work,” he said, adding there was a lot of diving and also some paperwork involved.
Mr Slabb said he hoped his career would lead him to have a role with Aboriginal issues in marine parks.
“What I am passionate about is indigenous people being able to access their rights within sea country. Further into my career that area is what I would like to progress to,” Mr Slabb said.
The Cape Byron Marine Park has developed a joint management approach with the Bundjalung Arakwal people.
“They have that traditional owner group in Byron Bay, and my position was created through a lot of their hard work.”
Mr Slabb hopes to inspire other Aboriginal people to achieve their goals.
“I don't consider myself anything special, if you put your mind to something and are prepared to do the hard work you can do whatever you want to do,” Mr Slabb said.
He said his ancestors lived off the sea for many years and he was “blessed” to be able to play a part in making sure the resource would be there for his children.
“It is good to be able to teach the next generation about our culture, a lot of our culture relates to the land and the sea.”
The Cape Byron Marine Park stretches from Lennox Head in the south to the north wall of the Brunswick River in the north and three nautical miles out to sea.