Indigenous climate change adaptation in the Kimberley region of North-western Australia. Learning from the past, adapting in the future: Identifying pathways to successful adaptation in Indigenous communities

Authors: Sonia Leonard, John Mackenzie, Frances Kofod, Meg Parsons, Marcia Langton, Peter Russ, Lyndon Ormond-Parker, Kristen Smith and Max Smith
Year: 2013

This study developed a community-based framework for formulating adaptation policies that takes into account aboriginal worldviews and traditional ecological knowledge (TEK). The results indicated that when people are given time to understand climate change scenarios through their own knowledge systems and worldviews they are better able to evaluate climate risks and articulate potential pathways to adaptation. For example, there are no words for climate or for weather in Miriwoong. Aboriginal people see dramatic weather events, such as the flood that overtook the Warmun community in Gija country, as the result of inappropriate human behaviour or actions locally. These strongly held beliefs make it difficult for Aboriginal people to understand that the natural world is changing because of other outside agencies. The development of management tools based on TEK has the potential to strengthen the capacity of Aboriginal people to critically evaluate scientific models of climate change in remote areas of northern Australia, to assist them in identifying key vulnerabilities including cultural vulnerabilities, and to test future adaptive capacities. Case studies were carried out in three targeted communities within the Kimberly region of North-Western Australia the Kununurra community in the Keep River district (WA/NT), the Warmun community (WA) and the Bidyadanga community (WA). Stakeholder engagement identified specific priority actions for ensuring successful implementation of climate change adaptation in each of the three communities, such as greater community involvement and recognition of cultural beliefs in planning.

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