Tradition Meets Science To Understand Climate Change

While Indigenous communities may contribute the least to climate change, globally they are amongst the most vulnerable to its impacts.

This sentiment set the tone for three riveting days of climate change conversations at the 2018 National Indigenous Dialogue on Climate Change.

Held in early November, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people from across Australia met on Yorta Yorta Country in Victoria to discuss how climate change is impacting their communities and what forms of engagement would be the greatest value to their communities.

CSIRO scientists were also in attendance to learn more ways of improving consultation with Aboriginal communities when investigating ways to address climate change issues in regional communities.

Colin Walker – an elder of the Yorta Yorta nation who contributed decades of wisdom throughout the conference – conducted a smoking ceremony and welcomed everyone to Yorta Yorta country while sharing some of his knowledge of the area he grew up in.

Mr Walker also presented his ‘Cultural map’ that marked the different areas he frequently uses for different hunting and gathering purposes – a valuable resource for Mr Walker and his family.

NACC Aboriginal Liaison Coordinator Bianca McNeair attended the conference and said that low socio-economic status, dependence on natural resources, residence in particularly vulnerable geographic regions, and histories of inadequate policy responses all create increased vulnerabilities for Indigenous people.

“But conversely, culture may mean that some Indigenous communities are well-placed to develop effective adaptive responses to climate threats, and Indigenous knowledge systems may contribute significantly to understanding climate change.”

One theme that was widely discussed by saltwater Aboriginal people was the state of the seagrasses. Klaas Liezenga – a Malgana man from Shark Bay and Ranger in NACC’s Midwest Aboriginal Ranger Program with the WA Department of Biodiversity, Conservation and Attractions – also attended the conference and said that the loss of seagrass in the Shark Bay waters is a real concern for the Malgana community. 

“Aboriginal Rangers are in the best position to find ways of managing and restoring it to provide healthy food for our dugongs and all other marine life.”

Mr Liezanga also said that “I look forward to returning to Malgana country and educating visitors and school groups about how important it is to have some understanding of conservation in such a remote delicate environment.”

If you are interested in outcomes and recommendations from this workshop Earth Systems and Climate Change Hub – along with Aboriginal representatives in attendance – will co-author a report about Indigenous Dialogue on Climate Change to assist CSIRO to engage with local Indigenous communities. NACC will share this report on our website when it is freely available.

Did You Know?

Yorta Yorta Country was particularly relevant as the location for talks about climate change as it consists of riverine plains that flood and change from forest floor to river bed regularly with the seasons.

The Yorta Yorta Country Native Title area includes 20,000 square kilometres of country along the Murray River and Goulburn River, crossing over into NSW.

For more information about Yorta Yorta country, history and people, please visit the Yorta Yorta Aboriginal Corporations website:


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