People & Provenance Series: Shane’s Story

My name is Shane Saunders I am a Kilcarer Gunditj and Gilgar Gunditj man of the Gunditjmara people. I was born in Warrnambool and grew up in Narrawong. My people are the original custodians of the land where the current Narrawong farm now stands.

I come from a long line of aquaculturists that date back more than 6000 years when my ancestors developed an eel aquaculture system beginning at Lake Condah (northeast about 30km inland) that fed all freshwater systems to the coast. The production of this system sustained and provided trading opportunities for the Gunditjmara people.

This forms part of the recently recognised “World Heritage system” Budj Bim. Eels were carefully corralled through the system in channels built of basalt rocks and directed into traps where they were harvested to provide a year-round supply of food. The eels were then often preserved through smoking so that they could be traded with other groups outside the Budj Bim area.

The Bundj Bim cultural landscape is currently being re-created to show how this worked thousands of years ago. It will incorporate modern aquaculture and processing techniques. It is my hope that through Yumbah we find collaboration opportunities with my people to continue the tradition of aquaculture on Gunditjmara land.

I started at Yumbah in August 2016. It took me several visits standing in the rain outside the gate before Tim gave me a start. The first time I saw the farm it blew me away and I remember thinking to myself ‘this is where I would like to work’. I saw so many opportunities that I have now realised and look forward to many more.

During my childhood, I participated in many Indigenous leadership programs, through various AFL Football clubs like Richmond and Geelong (although I barrack for The Melbourne Demons). These experiences provided me with leadership skills that I now apply in my day-to-day work and the management of other people.

I completed a Certificate 3 in Aquaculture Program in Tasmania last year where I did Coxswains training and learned about oyster leases in Tasmania and South Australia. The Cert 3 is my biggest achievement at Yumbah and I hope to go further with training in the future. Cert 4 and the Diploma would be great for my experience and would be a challenge.

Prior to working for Yumbah, I worked as a cray fisherman with my grandfather. We fished inshore under the cliffs of Cape Bridgewater and offshore, almost beyond the horizon in a small boat. The ocean here can be dangerous and unpredictable, and we had to be independent and on the ball. This experience shaped my work ethic into what it is now.

Outside of work, I enjoy traveling, and camping in the country with family and my partner Mischa, who also works at Yumbah. I am passionate about giving people opportunities to be the best they can be, and I believe that Yumbah can offer these opportunities as it did for me.

Yumbah has given me many great experiences and opportunities. I love responsibility and being accountable, managing people, and working in a great team. The challenge and excitement of growing abalone for nearly three years from a tiny 4-gram juvenile to a beautiful succulent 100-gram, full-grown abalone, that is eaten and enjoyed all around the world is inspiring.