With more than 60,000 kilometres of coastline, Australia needs dedicated people like Eric Cottis to ensure we stay safe from exotic pests and diseases.
Eric, a Gudang man from the Northern Peninsular Area of Cape York with family connections in Badu, Mabuiag and Saibai Islands in the Torres Strait, works as a biosecurity officer in the most northerly part of Australia.
The Torres Strait Islands, located between the northern tip of Queensland and Papua New Guinea (PNG), represents the closest Australian land to a neighbouring country, with Saibai Island less than four kilometres from the Papua New Guinea mainland.
This proximity allows for the entry of exotic pests and diseases into Australia through natural movements such as winds, tides and currents, and through traditional movements of people and goods.
Eric is the senior staff member in Bamaga on the tip of Cape York and his team are responsible for helping safeguard Australia from biosecurity risk materials as part of the Northern Australia Quarantine Strategy (NAQS). On top of this, Eric also works as a Community Liaison Officer throughout the Torres Strait, raising community awareness about biosecurity and helping bridge the cultural gap between locals and visitors.
This role includes supporting NAQS scientists when gaining permission from traditional owners to access country to conduct biosecurity surveillance.
While Eric plays a vital role in keeping Australia free of exotic biosecurity dangers, he says he really enjoys what he does.
”Not only do I work on different projects throughout the Torres Strait but I also get to experience other Indigenous cultures which is very important to me,” Eric said.
“I think one of the strengths I bring to my role is being of mixed race; both Aboriginal and Torres Strait lineage. I like to see my role as bridging three distinct cultures, Aboriginal, Torres Strait and western - actively promoting an understanding of them all.”