Poetica is proud to support K Farmer Dutjahn Foundation (KFDF), an Aboriginal-led organization that supports the people and biodiversity connected to Australia's sandalwood regions. This Earth Day, we speak with Katina Law, Director at KFDF, about working in harmony with the land.
Let's start where it all began for you. You grew up in the Kimberley region of Western Australia - what was that like?
I was raised in Derby, a town in the remote northern region of Western Australia, also known as The Kimberley. It's a beautiful, untouched corner of the world, with dramatic natural landscapes and amazing flora and fauna. Camping up the Gibb River Road and swimming in the gorges were regular holiday activities. My mother is a member of the Stolen Generation and it’s been a long journey to trace and develop relationships with my Worora and Walmajarri families across the West Kimberley.
You embarked on a successful international career in finance and general management. Can you tell us a little bit about this journey?
I have worked in the mining industry across several continents and have lived abroad in Indonesia and the United States. I quickly saw the power and potential of mining to provide good jobs in isolated and disadvantaged communities. At times, it was challenging to work across diverse cultures and in different languages. I was often the only woman in the room, although I was recognized by the men in the industry, and given opportunities to develop and grow. A highlight for me was achieving my MBA from London Business School. Ultimately, my career has provided me with an incredible opportunity to learn about the world and all the different people living in it.
What drew you to work in the sandalwood industry?
Sandalwood grows abundantly across the vast semi-arid lands of Western Australia. It is a sacred tree that has been valued and used by Indigenous peoples for thousands of years. With KFDF, I was invited to join a unique group of Indigenous men who had a vision for the future of the Sandalwood industry for Indigenous people. They believed that Indigenous Australians have a right to share in the supply chain success of sandalwood products, specifically Santalum spicatum, an important sandalwood variety unique to Australia. They were trailblazers and it has been a pleasure to help them bring their vision to life. Our model encompasses land and community regeneration, and we invest in programs that support landcare, culture, and skills training.
What are some of the longstanding challenges in Australia's sandalwood growing regions?
The Sandalwood industry has only just opened up for Indigenous people. Through Native Title law, Indigenous Australians now finally have the ability to harvest sandalwood for their own economic gain. The vast sandalwood forests of the Central Deserts are worth many millions of dollars and KFDF seeks to enable access to economic opportunities through sandalwood harvesting, while also supporting Indigenous people to manage their sandalwood resources sustainably.
How do you support the longevity of the sandalwood industry?
Our Youth Ranger Program supports the next generation of sandalwood leaders. We have two adult ranger programs in the town of Wiluna to teach young people about caring for country - the word we use for our homeland - and the responsibilities and opportunities that come with that.
What is the best part of your work?
Working with children to build the leaders of the future.
Learn more about Katina's work at KFDF here. All images courtesy of KFDF.