As large-scale agriculture, drought, bushfire and introduced species reduce Australia’s biodiversity and long-term prosperity, Indigenous academics are calling for a fresh look at the governance and practices of mainstream environmental management institutions.
A new research reveals that Aboriginal Australians’ world view and connection to Country provide a rich source of knowledge and innovations for better land and water management policies when Indigenous decision-making is enacted.
This research is the fruit of a collaboration between, Dr Samantha Muller of Flinders University (lead author) with Ngarrindjeri Nation citizen and director Indigenous Nation Building, Professor Daryle Rigney, as well as Associate Professor Steven Hemming, previously at Flinders and now the Jumbunna Institute for Indigenous Education and Research.
They research team compared examples of conservation and land management among First Nations groups in Aorearoa/New Zealand and North America with a Ngarrindjeri case study in South Australia.
The researchers realised that Aboriginal Australians’ world view and connection to Country provide a rich source of knowledge and innovations for better land and water management policies when Indigenous decision-making is enacted.
“There is a whole lot of wonderful things that have come from Western science but it is limited in its ability to address ecological crises partly because of the worldview it was founded on,” Dr Samantha Muller said in an interview with NITV Radio.
Professor Muller added that when Indigenous nations become sovereign partners in environmental management, the power structures and worldviews that underlie decision-making can be productively challenged … creating new solutions to pressing environmental issues.
For example, the Ngarrindjeri Nation at the mouth of the Murray Darling in South Australia have developed Kungun Ngarrindjeri Yunan (KNY) agreements with the State Government that recognise Ngarrindjeri as sovereign partners in environmental management.
This foundation enabled Ngarrindjeri to drive innovative environmental solutions during the millennium drought, leading to being awarded the 2015 Australian Riverprize.