Flying over a vast expanse of grazing land and national parks in the remote reaches of Cape York Peninsular, Agricultural Extension Trainee Harry James was a long way from where he grew up in suburban Brisbane.
Now, thanks to the Queensland Farmers’ Federation’s Agricultural Extension Work Placement Program, not even the sky is the limit for what graduates can achieve in the field of extension.
After graduating from a Bachelor of Environmental Management (Hons.) majoring in Natural Systems and Wildlife, Harry was placed with Cape York Natural Resource Management in Atherton.
Within the Sustainable Industries and Water Quality Team, Harry has been working with landholders to improve grazing practices and reduce sediment loss to the Great Barrier Reef (GBR).
“One of our projects is focused on restoring eroded stream banks. I was fortunate enough to spend a day surveying river systems from a helicopter, assessing any erosion that we might be able to repair with recovery works. It’s a privilege to be involved in this important work, and having the chance to fly in a helicopter was an unforgettable experience,” Harry remarked.
Harry has also been involved in several gully remediation projects on grazing properties. Gully erosion contributes at least 40 per cent of fine sediment delivered to the GBR. In Cape York’s Normanby Catchment, this amounts to over a million tonnes of sediment eroding from gullies every year.
“We’re working in partnership with landholders to restore and revegetate several gullies. By keeping soil where it should be, our waterways and our reef benefits, but so do our landholders, who rely on good soil health for the productivity of their land,” Harry said.
“We need to treat the cause as well as the symptoms of these issues. If a landholder can not only restore their gully, but also improve their grazing practices and how they manage their grass, that has lasting impacts for the health of the land and waterways for years to come.”
During the course of his traineeship, Harry has immersed himself in a wealth of community events, field days and hands-on workshops.
“Before commencing this program, I had a very limited understanding of the agricultural industry. Now I’m much more confident. I’ve participated in workshops covering everything from low-stress stockhandling to fluvial geomorphology*. This program has been the perfect launchpad for entering the diverse world of extension,” Harry commented.
Based on his experiences, Harry holds enormous respect and admiration for the people of Cape York.
“I’ve been blown away by the friendliness of everyone I have met. The people here are also incredibly resilient and resourceful, and they care about their land very deeply. I’m really optimistic about the future of the grazing industry as well as the health of the environment in Cape York.”
The two Agriculture Extension Work Placement Programs are funded by the partnership between the Australian Government’s Reef Trust and the Great Barrier Reef Foundation, and the Queensland Government Reef Water Quality Program.
*Fluvial geomorphology is the study of the interactions between the physical shapes of rivers, their water and sediment transport processes, and the landforms they create.