Dean Stewart has worked for over 20 years within management roles in both Environmental and Cultural organisations. Working for almost 10 years as the Community Revegetation Project Co-ordinator, for Eltham and then Nillumbik Councils. Dean co-ordinated all environmental on-the-ground project works from Diamond Creek up to Kinglake and from Plenty River to Warrandyte. With groups ranging from community conservation groups such as ‘Friends of’, professional contractors and numerous government and non-government organisations and agencies from Melbourne Water, Parks Victoria, Greening Australia, Dept of Justice and many Green Army teams for over a decade. Dean was a director on the board of the Koori Gardening Team, a million-dollar company employing exclusively Victorian Aboriginal employees. He now sits as a Committee member for the City of Melbourne Council Parks & Reserves Committee and the Darebin City Council – Darebin Nature Trust Committee. Later Dean was honoured with the position of the very first Aboriginal Liaison for the Royal Botanic Gardens Melbourne. He created and operated the Aboriginal Heritage Walk with the RBGM. In its first year this cultural tourism and education initiative won the IAA Interpretation Australia Ass National award for best interpretative public program and then Tourism Victoria’s State award for best Aboriginal Tourism experience. This cultural program became so successful that still after 15 years it continues operating today and has provided employment and development opportunities for many Aboriginal people in Melbourne. Over his time at the RBG Dean was part of the Project Team for the RBGM ‘Long Island’ project – the creation of the very first Indigenous wetlands capital works project in RBGM history. He then also provided cultural consultancy for the Australian Garden in Cranbourne, and assisted in the set-up of Sydney’s Botanic Gardens Aboriginal walks.
After a decade with RBGM Dean accepted the role of Manager of the Cultural education Unit of the Koori Heritage Trust. Dean developed and conducted a suite of specific Cultural Education programs including the WalkTheTalk Education program for Michael Long’s Long walk and the Essendon F.C. He co-ordinated the state-wide high level corporate cultural awareness programs rollout for the DHS Dept of Health Services throughout the whole of Victoria. Upon leaving the Koori Trust decided with all his expertise and experience to establish his own Victorian sole Aboriginal business and created ‘Aboriginal Tours And Education Melbourne’ as Indigenous owner operator. Dean has been operating for 8+ years and conducts cultural walks, presentations and programs for over 14,000 Melbournians every year – from teacher PDs, international conference delegates and corporate and government employees. However, the majority of Dean’s programs are for the next generations of Australian adults; the many 1000’s of students primary, secondary and tertiary students. Other consultancy includes several public interpretation signage projects, such as ‘Ngargee to Nerm – the Once As It Was’ mapping project created, developed and designed by Dean in collaboration from EcoCentre, Port Phillip Council and Boonwurrung Traditional Owners. Dean has throughout this tenure continued his passion of conservation and Caring For Country designing and implementing the Banyule Aboriginal Keeping Place – Babarrbunin Biik, and his newest ecological initiative of ‘Lost Lands Found – reclaiming Victoria’s Flowering Grasslands’ for Hobson’s Bay & Stonnington Councils and ‘Healing Country, Heal Ourselves’ revegetation initiatives and worked with University of Melbourne Indigenous narrative and design of the Parkville Campus and recently created Indigenous Flowering Grasslands across every Swinburne University campus in Melbourne.
Dean wishes not to just talk up our ancient and modern custodianship with his education programs and his words, but through tangible actions of getting his hands back into the earth and reviving the Indigenous natural world and simultaneously his Indigenous culture. As both landscapes, the natural and the cultural, are truly bound as one and the opening of awareness to everyone regenerates great strength and potential in People and Place, and nurtures deeper connections for us all back with the Earth, as the newest custodians of this ancient land. Reconciliation is not just between black and white, but a Reconciliation between us, as a people, with the Land!