Star stories inspire new breed of habitat heroes at special lagoon

OzFish Unlimited

The beautiful Whittaker’s Lagoon has been a special place near Moree, NSW for thousands of years and OzFish Unlimited proudly helped local Indigenous youth reconnect during NAIDOC week celebrations.  

A group of 20 locals participated in a two-day culture camp on Gomeroi/Kamilaroi Country to hear about star stories like the emu in the sky, as well as caring for Country and learning about the ancient native grains found in the area. 

Local OzFish Gomeroi/Kamilaroi Cultural Officer Michael Kirk taught the students at the Whittaker’s Lagoon living classroom and teamed up with Miyay Birray Youth Services and Moree Local Aboriginal Land Council to host the camp. 

It builds on OzFish’s earlier project which helped reinvigorate the area and repair Whittaker’s Lagoon into thriving waterway and restored the place to its sacred meeting place for local Traditional Owners.

OzFish Senior Project Officer Taylah Kirk said it was a privilege to be invited on Country to help facilitate the camp activities.  

“The aim way not only to restore Whittaker’s Lagoon but also to use it like it once was used as a traditional meeting place. The idea was that on Monday night the boys go out with Elders and Knowledge Holders and learn traditional ways and the importance of being on Country to their culture and heritage,” she said. 

“They also learnt how to be leaders and continue that culture for future generations and they did the same with the girls on the Tuesday. 

“OzFish works with local communities to create stewardship of their rivers by spending time on Country listening and learning from Elders and Knowledge Holders about the ways we can support them in habitat restoration.

“We look forward to working with these local communities in the future.”

The program hopes to kick-start a passion for land management and conservation incorporating traditional knowledge and modern land practices.

Harry Davey, Jay Barnett and Michael Kirk from the OzFish Northern Murray-Darling Basin team work closely with First Nations communities to listen and learn about ways that they can work together to improve habitat outcomes.

Yarning circles for men, women and Elders “all connected like a river” have been set up at the lagoon. 

The boys were taught by Michael Kirk and other elders how to make clap sticks and the students learnt about why Indigenous people have looked to the stars for the emu constellation for thousands of years. 

It was also an eye-opener for many of them to learn that they could make a career out of being an Indigenous ranger, supporting conservation efforts and educating the next generation about the knowledge that has been passed down through countless years. 

Kerrie Saunders, the owner of Yinnar-ma Bush Tucker Tours, was delighted to share knowledge with the students at the camp.  

“To get them connected and teach them about their cultural heritage was great. To let them know that when they look out to Country they can see what’s out there. Once they see it, they feel it. 

“It’s empowering because a lot of it was lost. Some families don’t speak about it at home. Having that feeling of self-belonging is empowering and most of all knowing who you are as an Aboriginal person.” 

There are plans to work with more students currently underway. Any schools or community group interested should contact OzFish on 1800 431 308 or

/Public Release.