People of the Reef ·
Ramona McIvor: ‘The love of my Country, clan and community motivates me’
A proud Binthi Warra Guugu Yimithirr woman, Ramona McIvor is helping care for Country and protect the Reef for generations to come.
Ramona McIvor is a proud Binthi Warra Guugu Yimithirr ‘Bama’ (person). She belongs to the Binthi Warra clan, which is one of 32 clans of the Guugu Yimithirr Nation, in the Hope Vale region just north of Cooktown in Queensland.
Her connection to the ocean is woven into her name, which came from the pearling lugger boat her grandfather Patrick McIvor captained.
“It is a Spanish name that means ‘the wise protector’, and it was the cargo boat for the Cape Bedford Mission that he would sail to Cooktown and the outer Great Barrier Reef. Although my clan are not coastal, we are also sea farers and have innate marine skills,” she says.
Ramona grew up in Hope Vale Aboriginal Community, and at 8 years old moved to Coen with her family.
“Looking for yabbies in the Coen River and camp-outs at Port Stewart and Archer River were my favourite pastimes,” she says.
“My favourite reef animal is the stingray...and I love to paint it. The stingray is my uncle's totem for Lizard Island, and they remind me how much I love my uncles and how much they love their Country, Great Barrier Reef and totem." - Ramona
During their time there, her father helped Traditional Owner groups with their land acquisitions. Now, Ramona carries on his legacy, leaving her own mark through her advocacy work with Binthi Land Holding Group Aboriginal Corporation, the trusted voice for the Binthi Warra people.
Her family’s traditional knowledge and dedication has provided her with support and inspiration, and nurtured a deep respect for the sea.
“My grandfather, my uncle Syd McIvor, and my father were experienced seamen and made their own boats. I named my boat the ‘Louannna’ (fierce little warrior) after one of the boats they made, which sailed through up to 100 waterspouts near Indian Head out from Cooktown. They knew how to break and ride the waves at rough seas and high-knot winds. They also knew the traditional seasonal plant calendar, and taught the lessons of sustainability.”
Her admiration and reverence for life and nature was instilled from an early age.
“My father taught me ‘never to disrespect the sea, because she will always turn on you’. He always referred to it in the feminine sense and not masculine, and same for the land. I was always taught not to drop the rocks while collecting seashells from under them, to avoid destroying the smaller shells and other life forms,” she says.
That care, curiosity and wonder extend to her fascination with the Great Barrier Reef.
“I love hearing and reading about how Traditional Owners managed and sustained ‘her’. Its exceptional beauty is astounding.”
Ramona’s love of her country, clan and community motivates her to care for Country. “We are the custodians of our sacred land and it is the legacy our ancestors and elders entrusted us with to care for.”
She has since been able to bring that love and respect into her work at Binthi Land Holding Group Aboriginal Corporation. Together with the Cape York Natural Resource Management team, she has helped develop and deliver the South-East Cape York Community Action Plan. This pilot program brings together community to protect the Great Barrier Reef by identifying shared goals, priorities and taking action to maximise the impact of collaborative community projects.
Ramona and the Cape York NRM team recently unveiled a new ‘Welcome to Binthi Country’ which is already having a positive impact on the community.
The Binthi Land Holding Group Aboriginal Corporation has developed a Healthy Country Plan to unite their voices and pave the way in protecting Country. Ramona says her greatest professional achievement has been the successful nomination for her Country’s National Heritage Listing and Cape York Peninsular Heritage Assessment Grant. This is a huge success for her community and will ensure the ongoing protection and rehabilitation of their natural and cultural values.
“It is a proud moment to have traction to protect the iconic sites on my Traditional Country,” she says. “It is a legacy our ancestors and elders worked hard to protect, and it is our duty to carry it on. Also, knowing that doing so will also create a buffer zone to protect the Great Barrier Reef from threats.”
With the Foundation’s Community Action Plan project grant, Ramona and her team have also been able to purchase Environmental Systems Solutions technology, which is enabling them to record, manage, and communicate cultural, environmental and business information more effectively.
“We are so grateful for the generous support we received so we can care for our Country,” she says.
Through trials and tribulations, Ramona’s community has worked together to protect one another and their Country. “Our youth are important to us and we want them to learn about their culture and history so they can also be proud custodians.”