Indigenous voices in climate change adaptation: Addressing the challenges of diverse knowledge systems in the Barmah-Millewa

Authors: Dave Griggs, Amanda Lynch, Lee J oachim, Xuan Zhu, Carolina Adler, Zac Bischoff-Mattson, Pan Wang and Tahl Kestin
Year: 2013

The Barmah-Millewa region on the floodplain of the Murray is the heart of Indigenous Yorta Yorta Traditional Tribal Lands, and also an area of significant international ecological value that has suffered considerable damage from human use (such water diversions for agriculture, channel re-routing and the introduction of invasive pests). However the ability of the Yorta Yorta community to respond has been curtailed by their limited access to the complex and highly-contested policy and management processes surrounding the Murray-Darling Basin. This project investigated how the deep knowledge of the Yorta Yorta people can be used to strengthen their participation and influence in the complex national and regional processes that determine how their traditional lands, are managed, leading to improved adaptation decisions both for the Yorta Yorta and the wider community. Through discussions with the Yorta Yorta over several years, it became apparent that there was an urgent need to empower First Nation communities to make their own assessments and decisions on the best ways for them to respond to climate change. To this end, a Geographical Information System (GIS) mapping framework containing both Yorta Yorta knowledge and more conventional knowledge was created. The participatory project raised community awareness, knowledge and capacity to engage in effective natural resource management and decision-making. The Yorta Yorta youth were energised to take an interest in their history and culture, and in the climate challenges facing their community. Overall, this is a successful pilot demonstration of the utility of a GIS database to integrate Indigenous and conventional knowledge for better natural resource management outcomes.

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