Project Leader, Organisation

Dr Angus Carnegie, NSW DPI




Myrtle rust has had significant impacts on native ecosystems in NSW and Queensland, causing localised extinction of species (Rhodomyrtus psidioides) and severe decline of others (Syzygium hodgkinsoniae). A completed DEE project recording impact of myrtle rust EPBC-listed species ‘Lowland Rainforests of Subtropical Australia’ identified severe decline on Myrtaceae not currently listed for any focussed conservation activities. Myrtle rust poses a significant threat to the outstanding universal value of the Gondwana Rainforests of Australia World Heritage Area and urgent action has been advised by the Gondwana Rainforests advisory committees. A number of species have been listed as critically endangered this year and there is an urgent need to capture further data on these rainforest Myrtaceae to ensure germplasm can be collected ahead of extinction and to enable the development of structured conservation and management programs. Creating community awareness and expanding capacity to capture data is critical given the rapid decline in a number of species. Enhanced capacity is needed within managing agencies, Traditional Owners and broader community groups.

Objectives and impact

Objective This project aims to increase knowledge of Myrtaceae in the Gondwana Rainforests threatened by myrtle rust through expanding capacity.


Training Training modules developed as part of project PBSF012 will be expanded to cover species common in the Gondwana Rainforests region. Established study sites will be used for in-field detection and assessment training.

Surveys Survey plans will be developed to identify priority target species and sites to assess.


  • Increased myrtle rust and environmental biosecurity awareness, detection and reporting capacity
  • Contribution to reporting species and community impact – Theme 3 Myrtle Rust action plan
  • Shared Traditional Owner knowledge of the cultural importance of Myrtle Rust susceptible plant species
  • Increased awareness of required and accepted scientific reporting and monitoring methodology within Traditional Owner groups
  • Increased capacity to report on forest health status, in particular Myrtle Rust impacts, as per Australian Government environmental department’s international and statutory responsibilities relevant to invasive species (EPBC Act, Convention on Biological Diversity).
  • Detailed impact data on Myrtaceae within Gondwana Rainforests World Heritage environments and surrounds for use in development of management strategies and to apply for listing – evaluating survival, regeneration, fecundity


The initial proposal for this project was to work with Traditional Owners in the Gondwana Rainforest World Heritage Area. However, since securing funding, the NSW Department of Planning, Industry and Environment employed two Aboriginal Project Officers as part of their Biodiversity and Conservation division. We thus took the opportunity to utilise this on-ground expertise and shifted the focus to the Coffs Harbour Local Land Council and local Indigenous Protected Areas (Minyumai IPA and Gumma IPA), with direct links into these Indigenous communities through the Aboriginal Community Engagement team. We believe this will be a better outcome for the sustainability and longevity of cross-cultural learning and engagement in biosecurity with Indigenous Australians.

Workshops were held over 4 days with Aboriginal Rangers in Coffs Harbour (Coffs Harbour Local Aboriginal Land Council and Gumma IPA) and Minuyimai LPA. The first day in each region focused on biosecurity, forest health, myrtle rust symptoms, impact and monitoring, and included a field tour to look at myrtle rust on local Myrtaceae. This also allowed for cross-cultural discussions on the importance of cultural values for biosecurity agencies and the need for monitoring the impact of invasive species ‘on country’. Butchulla Land and Sea Rangers from Queensland also attended and presented, which was vital for the success of the workshops, with NSW Aboriginal Rangers able to learn from the experiences of their Queensland counterparts.

Discussions were held to identify the most appropriate way to utilise Indigenous cultural knowledge to advance the importance of Indigenous culture in biosecurity. To utilise this knowledge to “prove sacredness” it needs to be made public (i.e. to non-Indigenous Australians), and the Aboriginal Project Officers will work with the Aboriginal Rangers to ensure approval is obtained for any Indigenous Culturally and Intellectual Property rights. As an example, for a particular native species (e.g. Melaeluca quinquenervia, paperbark), while the exact use or cultural significance of the species is sacred and not to be made public, a broad categorical description of its cultural importance may be, such as bush-food, tools, medicinal, scar tree, shelter.

The progress report is available here.