27. Indigenous weather and climate
Indigenous people leading climate change understanding and response
Chair: Rowan Foley of Aboriginal Carbon
This session is an opportunity for the delegates at AMOS to learn about the wonderful work being undertaken by the Traditional Owners across the country to understand and adapt to the changes in climate.
We will hear from :
Exploring knowledges: the role of recognising Indigenous Weather Knowledge in the journey to reconciliation at the Bureau
Djarra Delaney, Bureau of Meteorology
Cultural and knowledge hegemony shape the knowledges that we perceive as valuable or which we deem may contribute to a theory or discourse in a meaningful way. In Australia this dominant knowledge hegemony, is the coloniser, the "Western" way of viewing, describing and explaining the world around us. Marginalised groups, in this case Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples, are expected to subscribe to, and internalise, the same knowledge system as the dominant economic class (Marx 1977).
With a history of purposeful erasure of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander knowledges, language and cultural practice, the recognition of Indigenous Weather Knowledge in Australia's meteorological agency goes partway toward the reconciliation process for this knowledge. Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples have an understanding of environment imbedded within cultural practices and the discourse of 'Country', and this "Traditional" understanding of weather and seasons can inform us about the places we all occupy. From environmental indicators that give us clues to the impacts of climate change, to astronomical and phenomenal beginnings to seasons, each country within Australia has a unique story to tell about the environment, and it is necessary that we listen.
Changing weather and country in central Australia
Charles Lechleitner, Central Land Council (CLC) Ranger Support Officer and Petria Cavanagh, CLC Ltyentye Apurte Ranger
Charles Lechleitner and Petria Cavanagh will talk about changes to weather and country in central Australia during their lifetimes. Back in the 1970s, the country had different smells and colours. The length of caterpillar lines show how cold a winter is going to be – and there were many more caterpillars in the past. The seasonal indicators are mixed up and it’s hard to keep track of the changes to flowering and fruiting times. Winters are shorter and colder, and more willy-willys are crossing the country. Charles and Petria will also discuss some of the problems from the extreme heat waves, including for horses, red kangaroos and for people living with these changes.
Taking steps toward climate adaptation planning by making our knowledge and our ways of making decisions strong
Sarmala DeShong Charles Lechleitner, Central Land Council (CLC) Ranger Support Officer and Petria Cavanagh, CLC Ltyentye Apurte Ranger
Many Indigenous communities and peoples who live in urban and peri-urban areas on the south-east coast of Australia are likely to experience increasing, social, economic and environmental challenges from the impacts of climate change. The effects of climate change will worsen existing vulnerabilities that are part of Indigenous peoples’ experiences of on-going losses of cultural heritage sites, environmental assets and the legacies colonial dispossession. Indigenous peoples are also resilient. This collaborative research and the on-going work of Koinmerburra Traditional Owners in the Mackay Whitsunday region illustrates that the primary uncertainties Traditional Owners perceive in the face of climate change and in planning their responses to their changing environment are related to their ability to act based on their cultural institutions and their knowledge. Resilience to the impacts of climate change is strengthened when Indigenous peoples can plan in ways that activate their knowledge by being on country to observe and manage change and when they can manage and control key risks through their cultural institutions. Notions of climate justice that involve recognition, participation, and distribution offer a solid guiding framework to respond to the unique Indigenous perspective of uncertainty in responding to climate change and to care for the inter-dependent relationship with the non-human environment.
Shark Bay, W.A. – Where have ‘the black’ patches gone
Bianca McNeair, Malgana woman
Malgana people refer to the seagrass beds as ‘the black’. Shark Bay has the largest seagrass beds in the world and also has the most diverse collection of seagrasses in the world. Malgana country is the meeting point of two hemispheres and is uniquely balanced and supports many endemic species. This balance has been tipped by the rising temperature of the saltwater causing a loss of one third of the seagrasses in the Bay. The effects on the marine life that depend on the seagrass has created great concern for the Malgana people. Effecting traditional fishing rights, traditional diets, and community activities. This is creating a greater need to elevate the voices of our Traditional Owners to help educate tourists and visitors on how to care for country and protect what precious environmental values we have left.
Sustainable solutions for communities in a changing climate the land
Recently I have helped create Australia’s first Aboriginal producer group the Noongar Land Enterprise (NLE) group and we are working on a National Aboriginal grower group. By connecting landholders as a niche supply group of authentic, Aboriginal produce and plants, we can begin healing and revitalising country, culture and people, creating socially and environmentally responsible business activity, like fair-trade cooperatives.Climate change is very evident as a contributing factor to seasonal rainfall variability and adverse seasonal weather events. Aboriginal people from these areas have an increasing interest in knowing more about climate change and want to build an understanding through shared experiences, for example, in how to read country. Connecting communities with scientists can help us to understand climate change and explore its implications, and most importantly help prepare for changing the way the land is currently being used. Reconnecting Aboriginal people and ancient foods, using different native species, allows us to address a changing climate and improve soil health.
Panel discussion: Sustaining Indigenous-led climate understanding and adaptation