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Uncle Rob Cooley awarded Honorary Fellow of the University of Sydney

Brendan Foster -

Saltwater man Uncle Rob Cooley has been awarded an Honorary Fellow of the University of Sydney for his contribution to Country and community.

Uncle Rob, who has connections to Gamay-Botany Bay and the NSW South Coast, is a senior ranger and leader of the Gamay Rangers.

He oversees the coastal management of Gamay and has been responsible for raising awareness of Indigenous knowledge and marine systems within Botany Bay, including heritage protection and conservation, threatened species management, and cultural and environmental awareness.

University of Sydney Presiding Pro-Chancellor Barry Catchlove paid tribute to Uncle Rob in a ceremony on Friday.

"Uncle Rob is an important knowledge holder for Gamay, a carer and protector of its habitats and he continues to learn from the Elders and his own lived stories," he said.

"His work as a ranger for the past 30-plus years has influenced change through active participation in land and sea management to care for Country in a sustainable manner."

Dr Catchlove said Uncle Rob's activism was exemplary and he had been a crucial role model for Indigenous Youth.

He also commended Uncle Rob for his collaboration with the university's Indigenous researchers to better understand marine and coastal management practices.

Uncle Rob Cooley pictured alongside Gamay Rangers before Friday's ceremony. (Image: supplied, University of Sydney)

Some of the research explored better ways to understand shellfish and their complex habitats.

"He and the rangers have continuously displayed outstanding leadership and collaboration in natural and cultural resource management," Dr Catchlove said.

"They've done this through raising public awareness of Indigenous knowledge coastal and marine environments whilst supporting and advocating for education in providing sustainable coastal management and the protection of Australian fauna.

"As such, it is a distinct pleasure to warmly welcome Uncle Rob to the University's community of honorary fellows and congratulate him on his achievements to date."

During COVID, Uncle Rob and Gamay Rangers used traditional fishing methods to hunt mullet, that provided 300 meals to people in need during Sydney's lockdown.

In 2022, Uncle Rob and the Gamay Rangers were made honorary members of NSW National Parks and Wildlife Services for their work on nationwide whale protection during migration

It was the first time Australia had provided this honorary title to a ranger group.

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