Vanessa Cavanagh, Aboriginal Engagement Expert
Location: Sydney, New South Wales, Australia
My passion is Indigenous leadership or Aboriginal leadership. Through my work as manager and mentor, I’ve helped develop and nurture leadership in other Aboriginal people and this is all part of my leadership journey. The Aboriginal Riverkeeper Program was about giving Indigenous people the opportunity to gain nationally recognized qualifications in conservation and Indigenous land management while reconnecting with Aboriginal culture and the land through practical experience. For me this project was about building the trainees up as strong Aboriginal people so that they could go on and have better lives. That’s one of the best outcomes of this project, and I’m really proud of that.
Vanessa Cavanagh, principal Aboriginal engagement consultant with Eco Logical Australia, A Tetra Tech Company (ELA), served as the project director for the Aboriginal Riverkeeper Project. The project provided training for young Aboriginal trainees in Conservation and Land Management, with 100 percent of trainees obtaining formal qualifications in Conservation and Land Management and moving on to employment.
Vanessa is a First Nations Australian belonging to the Bundjalung and Wonnarua Aboriginal Nations. She has more than 15 years of experience in Aboriginal community engagement in New South Wales, as well as theoretical and practical experience in environmental and heritage conservation and research. Vanessa has worked for ELA since 2014 and developed a model for further Aboriginal engagement in environmental conservation.
She has a Bachelor of Science in Land and Heritage Management with first class Honours from the University of Wollongong (UOW). She also serves as subject coordinator for Indigenous Geographies at UOW, extending her work to empower Indigenous voices to the university setting.
In the video below, Vanessa discusses the Aboriginal Riverkeeper Project and the need for Aboriginal leadership.