Aboriginal Discovery Officer, NSW National Parks and Wildlife Service
Meet 24-year-old Jesse Harvey, a proud Worimi man, who currently works on the Central Coast as an Aboriginal Discovery Officer with NSW National Parks and Wildlife Service, providing visitor tours in national parks across the region to connect people to nature and explore the stories behind its incredible flora.
We chat to Jesse about his job in nature and what he loves most about the Central Coast...
What do you love most about the Coast?
"It's such a special place for the bush… it's just about got anything you would need: some of the best bushtucker, some of the best sites. It's a really, really special place... It always amazes me how much country can change between such a short area."
What's your connection to the Central Coast?
I grew up in Blacksmiths (10 minutes north of the Central Coast), and once I turned 17 or 18 and got a car, it was like this whole unexplored world that I hadn't had the chance to visit.
I started going down there [to the Central Coast] all the time and spending a lot of time walking through the National Parks down there, spending a lot of time at Girrakool in Brisbane Water National Park. I just loved how different the landscape was down there.
What do you like to do around the Coast?
During the warmer months, I spend a lot of time in the ocean, going out on the beach, and camping a lot as well, and just travelling and sightseeing; trying to go to new places I haven't been.
I like checking off new national parks that I haven't been to. You know, just getting out in nature and getting a bit of sun on, getting a bit of a sweat up, and trying to have as much fun as I can.
Are there any favourite spots that you like to take people on the Central Coast?
The Crackneck Lookout is a stunning spot and it's amazing for whale watching from there. It’s such a special place where you head back down the hill; it's a bit of a boardwalk with heaps of different bushtuckers and things like that. You head up past the paragliding base and within 200 metres, it feels like a completely different world.
What do you do as a dedicated Aboriginal Discovery Ranger with National Parks and Wildlife Service?
I wear a lot of hats in this role. I do community engagement; going on tours with anyone between the ages of two and 100, walking them through national parks looking at a variety of plants and animals, bushtuckers; cultural practices are medicines we use. I also go to events and we've had a few Roving Ranger programs down the Central Coast as well, just talking to the community there and seeing their interests.
What's your favourite part of being a Ranger?
It's definitely, definitely being out in the Park and I love working with children and just seeing them learn and thrive. We've had a few programs with a few different homeschool groups. There was one really, really good one where I taught mapping and navigation through the bush. We did a short safety course, how to find different bush medicines… so many different things.
This stuff wasn't really around as much when I was little. And you know, just giving these children and young people what I didn't get to experience as much as I would have liked to when I was young is rewarding.
Tell us a little about what makes the Central Coast’s National Parks so special?
Girrakool in Brisbane Water National Park is one of my favourite national parks. It’s so unique; there’s so many incredible walks all through it, so many different sites to see, and lots of rainforest country. There’s a couple of beautiful waterfalls and some of the rivers there are like nothing else seen around here.
Then over the other side of the Central Coast, Wyrrabalong National Park is just as nice as well. It's a little bit of a different country: it's right on the coast, you can see the water, the ocean and country; it’s just so different. It always amazes me how much country can change between such a short area.
"Tread lightly and leave the area better than it was when you arrived. It's an important idea held pretty dear to Aboriginal people Australia wide: we don't believe in ownership, the land owns us."
How seasonal are the wildflowers and edible plants you'll find in national parks on the Central Coast?
They massively change depending on the seasons, and even just on the weather patterns and things like that. I guess it's an Aboriginal thought: everything is cyclic, it all happens in circles and repeats over and over again. So you can sort of tell when certain flowers are going to be appearing at certain times, and those certain flowers flowering means certain things. Take something as simple as a Banksia Flower: it means that there's going to be mullet in the water.
The Central Coast is one of the best places around to see the Flannel Flowers as well, which people come from all places, different countries to see.
What about bushtucker?
Again, take the Banksia: you can boil that in water and drink that and get a sweet tea. When the flowers are really fresh, you can just about squeeze the nectar out of the flowers and lick it straight off your hand like honey.
Then there's the Dianella caerulea, and it was really popular with the Aboriginal people because there's little sort of purple berries, which are sometimes sweet. These fruits were full of seeds, so they ate the fruit and then spat the seeds out and left those trails of seeds behind them. And when those seeds grew into plants for the next year, the same Aboriginal people walked down the same path and plucked the fruit off the new plants that they farmed, basically.
Native ginger obviously has the same medicinal uses as everyday ginger. If we have got a bit of a cold or an upset belly or something like that, you can chop up that ginger and throw it into a tea making medicine.
Do you have any tips for travellers and locals to be more conscious when they explore the region? How they can be more mindful in the national parks and ultimately more respectful of our environment?
Tread lightly and leave the area better than it was when you arrived. It's an important idea held pretty dear to Aboriginal people Australia wide: we don't believe in ownership, the land owns us.
Just think before you do things. Something as simple as snapping a branch with a tree or pulling a leaf of the tree can be more than enough to cause catastrophic damage. Whether it's just an injury that scars off and causes an infection or can be as drastic as kills the plant.
And even if you do have the knowledge, and you know things that you can touch, the things that you can't touch, only take enough for yourself: make sure you're leaving enough to the animals and the plants and insects and everything else around you. They needed a lot more than we do. You know, there's not that many of these places left unfortunately. And if we don't protect them, we're gonna lose them.
What is the most special thing about the Central Coast?
It would have to be the bushland. It's such a special place for the bush. You know if you think about what is either side of it - Newcastle and Sydney - there's not much bushland there, but the Central Coast is like this amazing pocket of such a diverse range of bushland. Whether it be beautiful sand spits and little sand islands where some of our wonderful endangered shorebirds and things like that nest, whether it be the rainforest, or coastal rainforest, it's just about got anything you would need: some of the best bushtucker, some of the best sites.
It's a really, really special place.
This article was originally authored by Shaney Hudson, with photography by David Ross, as part of a Love Central Coast grant project brought to you by Destination Central Coast, jointly funded by the Australian and NSW governments under the Bushfire Local Economic Recovery Fund. To maintain accuracy, some editorial changes may have been made since publication.
Destination Central Coast understand it’s vital that we work collaboratively with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples to portray an accurate, inclusive and authentic representation of Indigenous Australia, informed by best practice cultural guidelines provided by Tourism Australia. Due to any sensitive cultural content, we wish to acknowledge this as a 'living article' created in ongoing, open consultation with the Indigenous peoples it aims to represent
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