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June July 2012 Issue
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Lake Eyre climate project

 Indigenous Education Feature

In a unique collaboration with the traditional owners of the Lake Eyre region - the Arabunna People - University of Adelaide researchers will help develop the first Indigenous climate change adaptation plan for their region.

The $240,000 groundbreaking project will identify how vulnerable this Indigenous community is to climate change and how as a group it might adapt to those changes.

Scientific reports suggest Arabunna country, which includes Lake Eyre, is likely to get both wetter and hotter in decades to come.

"Average annual temperatures could rise by more than four degrees Celsius and an increase in rainfall would mean more plant growth, increasing the risk of bigger bushfires," said lead researcher Dr Melissa Nursey-Bray.

Dr Nursey-Bray, a Senior Lecturer in the Discipline of Geography, Environment and Population, said if the climate does change by that amount, it could have a big impact on the Arabunna country, its people and its culture.

"Arabunna people have had to adapt to climate changes in the past, but scientists predict future changes are going to be much more rapid and are likely to occur within the next 20 to 50 years."

The project, funded by the National Climate Change Adaptation Research Facility, will provide a framework for the Arabunna to respond to climate change.

It will also aim to set standards for climate change adaptation plans that are relevant to other Indigenous communities.

"By collaborating with Arabunna we can use both Indigenous and Western approaches to create adaptation options that reflect real community input and ownership," Dr Nursey-Bray said.

"As Arabunna people live in a vast area it is expected that a wide range of issues will be identified, such as impacts on culturally significant sites and an increase in bushfires," said Aaron Stuart, Chairman of the Arabunna Ularaka Association.

"This project will help my people identify current risks while also helping western researchers learn from our experience of adapting to climate change over time," Mr Stuart said.

Researchers, along with Arabunna representatives, have started field work and the results will be presented to the Arabunna community for consultation before formal recommendations are made.

Other researchers on the project team include University of Adelaide staff Professor Lester-Irabinna Rigney (Dean of Wilto Yerlo), Dr Deane Fergie (Senior Lecturer in Anthropology), Professor Nick Harvey (Executive Dean of the Faculty of Humanities and Social Sciences) and Dr John Tibby (Senior Lecturer, Discipline of Geography, Environment and Population).

Deakin University Professor Veronica Arbon, an Arabunna researcher, is also a key member of the project team, along with Dr Genevieve Bell from Intel and Rob Palmer from AuConsulting.

Story by Candy Gibson

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Island, Lake Eyre Salt Lake
Photo by David Wall

Island, Lake Eyre Salt Lake
Photo by David Wall

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Desert patterns near William Creek, South Australia
Photo by David Wall

Desert patterns near William Creek, South Australia
Photo by David Wall

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