Filled with the knowledge of his old people and a passion for his country, Rirratjingu man Mandaka Marika has remained a steadfast visionary for his country and so has been nominated for the 2019 Lifetime Achievement Award at the upcoming Northern Territory Natural Resource Management Awards.

Born and raised in Nhulunbuy, Mr Marika is a leader in sustainable, cultural land practices and is a founding member of the Dhimurru Aboriginal Corporation.

Working as a ranger for over 25 years, Mr Marika still finds pride and passion in his worn, green uniform.

“I do what I do because of my passion for the land,” Mr Marika said.

“We are the only custodians of the land here, we do what we do because we love our country.”

A leader in his community, Mr Marika has stood strong against changing seasons, governments, threats to his country, inconsistent funding and personal loss.

“I would like to say thank you to the past leaders that have gone before me, that were there when we started together. There were rough times, but we had a vision. I was the lucky one who could stay and see this all happen,” Mr Marika said.

“I had challenges, my own son passed away. Grief overcame me and my family, and I thought about giving up. But I had people around me that supported me.”

“My wife, my family and the organisation, we are strong because of the respect, and the love between us all.”

Campaigning against marine pollution for almost a quarter of a century, Mr Marika said the threat of plastic in the ocean is becoming very real in his community.

“We see thousands of plastic pieces wash up on the shore of the beach, the beaches that my people once walked on when it was nice and white. We have songlines for the turtle, for driftwood, for everything that we see, but we don’t have a songlines for plastic.”

Overwhelmed by the possibility of receiving prestigious recognition at the Awards, Mr Marika manages to stay grounded and humble.

“It is an honour to be able to be there with a crowd of rangers, and others with my son,” Mr Marika said.

“I never thought that someone would look at what I do, and think I deserve this. I thank them so much, for recognising a leader like me. I have been out there like a lonely rock. The lonely rock is my metaphor, the rock is strength, it is the rock in me to keep going and stay strong.”

“I would like to challenge people to be able to stand firm and strong and look at our country as our old people saw; so that the strength of our solidarity will sustain our cause.”

The Northern Territory Natural Resource Management Awards aim to recognise and celebrate the achievements of those working to preserve and protect the Territory’s natural resources.

The winners will be announced at the NT Resource Management Awards Gala Dinner in Darwin on November 13.

The evening is part of the three-day Territory Natural Resource Management Conference hosted by Territory Natural Resource Management (TNRM).

TNRM CEO, Karen May commended all the award nominees and finalists.

“We are looking forward to celebrating the achievements of the dedicated individuals and groups from across the Territory, who have made a significant contribution to protecting the environment and farming for the future,” Ms May said.

The conference runs from the November 12 to 14 in Darwin, NT.

For more information and access to tickets to the conference and awards night, please visit:  https://www.tnrmconference.org.au/.

By Rachael Knowles