Traditional knowledge of country at risk
Friday, 7 December 2012
Action to involve Aboriginal communities in the management of their remote desert environments needs to be stepped up - or risk losing the benefit of their traditional links with the land, according to University of Adelaide researcher Dr Douglas Bardsley.
Dr Bardsley, Senior Lecturer in Geography, Environment and Population, says Aboriginal communities in remote areas of South Australia hold invaluable knowledge about how to maintain desert environments, which will be key to responding to the impacts of climate change.
New approaches to natural resource management that promote traditional knowledge and local work by indigenous people, while promising, need to be applied at a much larger scale, he says.
For several years Dr Bardsley has been researching climate change adaptation in the Alinytjara Wilurara region - a vast region covering a quarter of South Australia, in the northwest corner from the Northern Territory and West Australian borders, down to the Great Australian Bight.
A new project will investigate opportunities to link climate change adaptation activities within Aboriginal communities in the Australian desert with other indigenous activities around the world.
"We want to develop best-practice approaches to indigenous community-based monitoring programs of environmental change," Dr Bardsley says. "We'll be working with the Alinytjara Wilurara Natural Resource Management (AW NRM) Board and communities in the region to identify key planning responses to climate change in light of our recent review of vulnerabilities and opportunities for adaption."
Recent research, with fellow researcher Nathanael Wiseman and the AW NRM Board, examined the implications of climate change for remote Aboriginal communities and their environments, focusing on the Anangu Pitjantjatjara Yankunytjatjara (APY) Lands - published in It Depends Which Way the Wind Blows.
"We found that a major challenge to managing remote landscapes and biodiversity remains a lack of training and employment to manage those local environments," says Dr Bardsley. "In fact, remote Aboriginal communities are becoming even more vulnerable because their vital traditional knowledge is not being fully integrated into environmental management; this is presenting a major dilemma for people in the region as environmental change impacts upon the region.
"Climate change is making it more difficult to control invasive species, conserve native species and manage fire and floods across the remote far west.
"We talk about the benefits of traditional knowledge held by Aboriginal people, but we shouldn't take it for granted. We need to invest in ongoing support and funding to ensure that traditional links between indigenous people and their environments are maintained through local employment in managing the land."
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