• A tour at Ubirr rock in Kakadu National Park, Northern Territory. (AAP)Source: AAP
The knowledge of Indigenous people must be considered when solving global challenges like climate change, otherwise we risk relying on incomplete information, a symposium has heard.
Raveen Hunjan

31 Jul 2015 - 1:43 PM  UPDATED 31 Jul 2015 - 1:44 PM

The Indigenous Knowledge Symposium, held at the University of Sydney on Thursday, tackled concerns about the protection of Country amidst globalisation.

Attendees heard community advocates propose strategies for defending Country against commercial and environmental forces of change.

Dr Anne Poelina, Managing Director of Indigenous not-for-profit Madjulla Inc. and Nyikina Traditional Custodian from the Mardoowarra, Lower Fitzroy River, told the symposium that the knowledge of Indigenous people must be harnessed into solutions for the future.

"Traditional ecological knowledge is Indigenous science," she said.

"We've actually got things that we can use from Country – ... the knowledge we have as custodians of Country."

"We've actually got things that we can use from Country – the cultural capital, the knowledge we have as custodians of Country.

"As leaders, we're not just looking at globalisation as a problem, we've actually got very good solutions we can work with to create diverse economies."

But she warned that corporate and government strategies continue to usurp Indigenous voices in consultation.

"One of the strategies of the corporations is that they want to make you feel like you’ve lost before you’ve started," she said.

"If we're going to be addressing these so-called wicked problems, whether it's climate change or globalisation, unless Indigenous people are part of that conversation, and not just part of the conversation but part of the decision making, then there's always going to be gaps in the knowledge making we’re trying to generate."

Adrian Burragubba of the Wangan and Jagalingou Traditional Owners Family Representative Council, a community group against mining projects in Central Queensland, said that Indigenous people have a responsibility to contribute to solutions that protect Country. "It is incumbent upon on us as custodians, as the rural custodians, to stand and protect the land," he said.

"This is the only way they’ll hear us – stand together as a people. Our purpose is to unite the tribes.

"This is the only way they’ll hear us – stand together as a people. Our purpose is to unite the tribes.

Mr Burragubba formed the community council to assert collective Indigenous rights and presented the Queensland Parliament with a Defence of Country Declaration earlier in 2015, opposing a $16 billion coal-mining project on ancestral lands.

"When we talk about globalisation, what are we giving up? What are we forfeiting as the first people? ... What are we giving up to be a global citizen? Our identity will be lost forever," he said.

"We don’t consent. We don't consent to any mining [of] Country anywhere, to any foreign companies coming and destroying our sacred sites."

Symposium speakers agreed that without ongoing activism, governments and conglomerates would continue to ignore the importance of Indigenous heritage.

The conference concluded with a keynote speech by the United Nations Special Rapporteur for the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, Victoria Tauli-Corpuz.