Clontarf Academy students visit and volunteer at Fogg Dam
The Palmerston College, Clontarf Academy’s Year 11 boys came to visit Fogg Dam for a tour of the Ranger Station, Fogg Dam Conservation Reserve and to do a volunteer activity. Clontarf helps Indigenous boys improve self-esteem, develop life-skills, finish Year 12 and enter employment.
Jeremy and Pauline from Friends of Fogg Dam met the Clontarf bus at the Fogg Dam information sign on Anzac Parade. They gave a brief welcoming talk about Fogg Dam and its history as a failed rice experiment, before leading the bus full of excited boys to the Fogg Dam Ranger Station.
At the Ranger Station, Rangers Michael and Billy spoke about their work at Fogg Dam. Several of the students were interested in becoming rangers and asked the Rangers to describe their career pathways and how they got to where they are now. Both Michael and Billy said they love their work and the key to becoming a ranger was to gain experience by volunteering, keep applying for jobs and to never give up.
The boys were very impressed with the Ranger’s workshop where machinery and equipment is stored, serviced and repaired. They learned what the different equipment is used for and how rangers receive training in the skills they need, like welding and quad bike licences, so they can do the wide variety of tasks their job requires.
A light rain cooled us down while we checked out the croc trap alongside the workshop. Ranger Michael described the crocs he has helped to catch as part of his ranger duties and demonstrated how they are removed from the trap. Everyone had a crocodile story to tell and questions to ask, and we learnt that salt water crocodiles chase the fresh water crocodiles away from Fogg Dam if not properly managed.
The vehicle shed also drew everyone’s attention as the boys heard how the airboats can navigate the shallow parts of Fogg Dam and are used to help manage weeds. I think every young man there wanted to jump in the Muddox for a quick spin, when we described how we plan to use the new Muddox to reach areas inaccessible by airboat or quad to manage weeds this year.
The Clontarf boys and Friends of Fogg Dam farewelled the rangers at the Ranger Station and drove to Fogg Dam for a tour and working bee. Before beginning the working bee activities near the rotunda, we drove across the dam wall to Pandanus Lookout where the boys scrambled to the top for a view of the flood plains and dam. They were excited to see several agile wallabies up close and two Jabirus nearby. I pointed out a viewing platform and told them there had been a few crocs spotted near it, so to look out for crocs when we drive back to the rotunda. Luckily, there was a freshie posing for them when we drove back across the dam wall to begin our working bee.
The young men enthusiastically jumped into action when we got to the rotunda and explained how we needed to stop the rain from eroding the edge of the carpark.
In fact, the boys were so enthusiastic, they finished the task in record time, so were rewarded with a walk along the Woodlands to Waterlily Walk. We were able to share our love for Fogg Dam with the boys as we strolled along, looking at plants and fungi and talking about all the creatures that live at Fogg Dam. When we got to the first viewing platform, the boys discovered that a tree had fallen and blocked the path, so helpfully moved it off the track.
It was a lovely and productive day for all involved. The boys learnt about what rangers do, felt proud of the work they did fixing the carpark bank, and escaped their classroom for an afternoon in the bush; the rangers took pride in sharing their knowledge and describing their important work caring for Fogg Dam; and the Friends of Fogg Dam got some much needed tasks done while sharing their special place with some inspiring young men. Our future will be in good hands if they grow up to become rangers too.
So how did the afternoon come about? It all started when Luke, Operations Officer for Palmerston College’s Clontarf Academy, emailed Madonna at Landcare NT, asking if there were any volunteer activities available for his group. Landcare NT emailed all the Darwin Landcare groups to see who was interested in hosting the boys. Friends of Fogg Dam then contacted Landcare NT, who put us in touch with Luke and we coordinated with the rangers and devised the program. Luke was so impressed with the afternoon that he is going to encourage other Clontarf groups to visit Fogg Dam. Friends of Fogg Dam will happily host them as it was wonderful spending the afternoon with such polite, hard working young men, and we encourage other Landcare groups to host Clontarf too.
Written by Pauline Cass, President of Friends of Fogg Dam Inc.