Get to know DEW’s Tamahina (Tammy) Cox

To build momentum with less than a month until National Reconciliation Week, The Weekly is getting to know the department’s park ranger turned Aboriginal Partnership Team Leader Tammy Cox.

Aboriginal Partnership Team Leader Tammy Cox in Fowlers Bay Conservation Park

Tammy leads Aboriginal partnerships on the Eyre Peninsula. She is based in Ceduna and is a Wirangu (pronunciation: Wi-Ra-ngu, the ‘ng’ sound in sing) woman and Traditional Custodian of the Far West Coast of South Australia.

Tammy was born in Ceduna was raised west of Ceduna on a farm and sheep station. Today she is the proud mum of two, a boy Jo who is 10 years old, and a girl Charli who is 8 years old.

The Weekly team caught up with Tammy to learn about her story as a Wirangu woman and working for the department. Get to know more about her below.

What has been your journey so far with DEW?

I have been working in the department for 15 years. I started off doing a 4-year apprenticeship studying conservation and land management as a ranger. I then continued studying and working for the department for a further 2 years, completing a diploma in conservation and land management.

I have worked as a park ranger between Streaky Bay and the Western Australia border to manage around 32 parks with Senior Ranger Robbie Sleep. The Far West Parks are all so different and all unique and beautiful, from offshore islands and coastal to outback parks.

Since February this year I have been acting in the team leader role for Eyre Peninsula Aboriginal Partnerships.

Tell us a little bit about your roles for the department.

As a park ranger I love being outdoors and in the field. I like to make sure visitors are safe and have the right information when visiting our parks, most of which are remote.

With a wide range duties that come with being a ranger, my focus, as with other park rangers on the West Coast, is to educate our visitors so that they get the best experience when visiting our parks. People most of the time want to do the right thing, so it’s about giving them the opportunity to do so.

All Far West Parks are under a Co-management Agreement, managing the area alongside our Traditional Custodians for the region. I am honoured to be able to work with my elders, families and all Traditional Custodians of the Far West Coast, Maralinga Tjarutja, Yalata, Eyre Peninsula and Alinytjara Wilurara region. I value the lessons they teach me along the way to be able to work on Country conserving, maintaining and protecting culture for future generations.

In my current acting role as team leader of Aboriginal partnerships, I take on a more managerial position to strategically involve the local Aboriginal community members to collaboratively deliver DEW projects on the Eyre Peninsula. 

What is your favourite park on the Far West Coast?

As I was born and raised on the West Coast of Ceduna, I have many treasured childhood memories with my grandparents and family camping and visiting most of the parks. Today I have the privilege of looking after them - a particular favourite is Mexican Hat Beach in Fowlers Bay Conservation Park.

What are the benefits of your First Nation’s cultural knowledge in your work?

As a Traditional Custodian of the area I work in and having grown up around Ceduna and now living and working in the area with my family, I feel I know how to respectfully engage with community.

I feel I know how to respond to situations that may be sensitive, like managing culturally-sensitive areas.

Having been brought up in a small community I feel everyone knows who I am. They’ve either seen me grow up or have seen me working as a ranger for 15 years.

I like to see myself as a leader and role model for the younger generations and youth in my community and hope that I can inspire them to become the best they can be, in whatever they choose to be.

With being a local comes trust. This trust helps me when engaging with respected elders and community about projects or general business.

An amazing project I’m currently leading is assisting the Far West Aboriginal Women’s Council and local Aboriginal communities in developing an Indigenous seasonal wheel. The wheel will be used not only as a learning tool to assist in caring for the Far West, but will be a valuable educational tool for many years to come.

Seasonal wheel…sounds interesting. What’s this project?

It’s a collaborative project between the Far West Aboriginal Women’s Council, Eyre Peninsula NRM, Alinytjara Wilurara NRM, CSIRO and the Atlas of Living Australia.

We’ve engaged and consulted with approximately 200 women from the Far West Aboriginal Women’s Council (FWAW Council) Region to create a seasonal wheel to represent the knowledge of the Far West Region to care for Country.

The FWAW Council represents the five Aboriginal communities including Koonibba, Scotdesco, Yalata, Oak Valley and Ceduna, including its surrounding homelands.

CSIRO have developed seasonal wheels for the Northern Territory Traditional Owners and we are looking to build South Australia’s Traditional Owner ecological knowledge about the seasons on the Far West.

We are currently gathering and recording traditional knowledge (information and photos) about the seasons including when food is ready, when plants are flourishing and when animals are breeding.

This information is so important to support the local environment, as well as to document this traditional knowledge so we keep it for future generations. It is very sad for our communities when such traditional knowledge is lost.

The Eyre Peninsula seasonal wheel should be completed later this year.

What does the future hold for you?

Definitely staying in this line of work. I love caring for Country and animals, working with community, and we have such an awesome team in the Ceduna Natural Resources Centre.

While I love being in the field and being hands-on, I can also see the benefits and advantages in playing a more leading role, while engaging with my local community and stepping up and making decisions that might shape our future. Who knows what will happen.

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For more information or to discuss how to better engage with Aboriginal communities on the Eyre Peninsula, contact Tammy

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Tammy and her mum Josie on Scott’s Beach within the Fowlers Bay Conservation Park