The integration of different forms of knowledge of the relationships between climate, people and natural resources is an important issue in adapting to climate change. With some of the longest continuing cultures on earth, the indigenous communities of Australia hold valuable knowledge that has not generally been used effectively or equitably in environmental decision making. Indigenous people have not been empowered to participate in decision making processes due, in part, to lack of mutual understanding of western science and indigenous knowledge systems and lack of capacity to capture, manage and present traditional knowledge in indigenous communities.
This project explored how the deep knowledge of country of the Yorta Yorta people on the Murray River could be used to strengthen their participation and influence in regional natural resource management processes affecting the Barmah-Millewa Forest. We undertook a community mapping process to collect Yorta Yorta knowledge and combine it in a GIS framework with conventional environmental and other data. This framework is the basis for producing integrated maps and analyses to support decision making in the region. In addition, we undertook an appraisal of institutional barriers and bridges to sustainable management of the Barmah-Millewa.
The project arose as a community-led initiative following several years of conversation between the Yorta Yorta community and university academics on the threats climate change poses for the community and possible community responses. As a unique partnership, a key principle of this project was ethical and respectful relations among Western researchers and Indigenous partners, and hence authentic engagement with traditional knowledge keepers both within and beyond the research team was embedded in all stages of this project.