Aboriginal & Torres Strait Islander River Knowledge
We learn so much through stories that are told by those who have experienced the world and are connected to the environment in which they live. We have finally begun in Australia to ask our Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities to share their insights and knowledge about our rivers, so that we can learn how to interpret and link science to practice and experiential understanding. Our understanding about how our rivers and ecosystems work is being enriched by the vibrant cultural and spiritual dimensions that Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people are sharing with us. Not only do the people we are working with have great connection to rivers and ‘country’, but they also have a deep understanding about the health of rivers, and the many different flows and events that mark river life for people and the ecosystems they support.
We have been fortunate to connect with work being undertaken through the Tropical Rivers and Coastal Knowledge Intitiative, National Water Commission and the Murray Darling Basin Authority so that we can make a start on highlighting the knowledge we can gain from empowering and learning from our Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities. We welcome other contributions from organisations doing similar work as we would like to get a nation-wide coverage of developments in this important area of ‘river knowledge’.
One of the important aspects of working with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander groups is to respect and acknowledge their customs. At the ARRC we recommend that anyone working with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities follow the Australian Institute of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Island Studies Research Ethics guidelines. As it says on The Institute’s website:
“It is essential that Indigenous peoples be participants in any research project that concerns them, sharing an understanding of the aims and methods of the research, and sharing the results of this work. … The principles of the Institute’s Guidelines for Ethical Research in Indigenous Studies (GERIS) are founded on respect for Indigenous peoples’ inherent right to self-determination, and to control and maintain their culture and heritage. The Institute considers that these principles are not only a matter of ethical research practice but of human rights.”
Research and Knowledge Projects Underway and Completed:
Indigenous participation in water planning and water allocation decision making – report from National Indigenous Water Planning Forum
First Peoples Water Council – overview of roles, responsibilities and progress
Phil Duncan, a member of the First People Water’s Council discusses the new body at the National Indigenous Land and Sea Management Leading Sustainable Traditions Conference, Broken Hill November 2010. This presentation is now available in video and there are many other excellent speakers as well.
Indigenous Water Policy Group – overview of roles, responsibilities and progress
Joe Ross WA member of the Indigenous Water Policy Group discusses the new body at the National Indigenous Land and Sea Management Leading Sustainable Traditions Conference, Broken Hill November 2010. (As above)
Indigenous community water facilitators network – project overview and links to related sites
Indigenous Water Values – Report of a workshop on this topic
Representing traditional ecological knowledge – the Ngan’gi seasonal calendar – view the calendar and read more about the project
Effects of change in water availability on Indigenous people of the Murray-Darling Basin: Summary report
Effects of change in water availability on Indigenous people of the Murray-Darling Basin: Full Report