An international forum in Darwin has been told that traditional land management practices are helping to combat the effects of climate change.
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UPDATED 10:48 AM - 26 Aug 2013

(Transcript from World News Australia Radio)

Indigenous representatives from around the world have told a forum in Darwin that traditional land management practices are helping to combat the effects of climate change.

The inaugural World Indigenous Network Conference has brought together 1200 delegates from countries across the Asia Pacific region as well as from South-East Asia, South America and Africa.

Delegates from a number of countries have shared their experiences on how traditional customs have helped them protect their local environments and pass on environment protection practices from one generation to the next.

There has been a strong presence from Indigenous communities across the Pacific region at the Darwin forum with speakers from New Zealand, the Solomon Islands and Papua New Guinea.

One speaker was the Paramount Chief of the Ngati Tuwharetoa people of New Zealand, Sir Tumu Te Heuheu.

He told the forum, he believes Indigenous land management practices have proven to be sustainable over many generations and could benefit governments around the world as they tackle the impact of climate change.

He also believes Indigenous communities could help each other by sharing their knowledge and experiences on how best to manage the environment.

The Paramount Chief says global networking is something which previous generations of more isolated Indigenous peoples never had a chance to pursue.

"Today I am also mindful of our forefathers who kept alive the knowledge, the dreams and the understandings of our people. They didn't have the benefit of a world-wide platform to share their concerns and were often lone voices in unreceptive forums. Yet their determination to take the best of Indigenous values and philosophies into the 20th Century has led us here today."

The forum has brought together land and sea managers from a number of Pacific nations who have shared their ideas on how to draw on traditional customs and practices to promote a sustainable environment.

Zelda Hilly is a research officer with the non government research organisation, WorldFish.

She has worked closely with Indigenous communities in the Solomons to protect the local marine environment.

Ms Hilly says large parts of the Solomons are struggling with problems like coastal erosion and ocean acidification as a direct result of climate change.

She says a WorldFish program to address these challenges involves Indigenous elders passing on traditional land and sea management practices to younger Solomon Islanders.

"With that we try to get youths involved in the process where we have youths talk to elders about the changes in their community and the elders having the knowledge and the wisdom about the community and the changes that have taken place and having them talking to youths about these changes when these youths will be the leaders in the future for any community planning."

Another speaker at the forum has shared his ideas on how he believes Indigenous cultural practices have helped protect some forested areas of his homeland Nepal.

An Indigenous sociologist, Jailab Kumar Rai says some areas of Nepal have been set aside from development as a result of lengthy consultations with Indigenous communities.

And he believes the Indigenous people's beliefs have played a central role in why these areas have been protected.

"They believe that when they cut down the trees of this religious forest, that will bring misfortune to the village either to the households or the persons or the villagers. Due to these perceptions or understandings or beliefs, they do not cut down or destroy the forests."

The conference concludes on Friday.