CULTURAL VALUE OF WATERInternational River Symposium Brisbane – Cultural Flows PanelBradley MoggridgeIndigenous Water Research Specialist andFirst Peoples’ Water Engagement Council27 September 2011
Presentation Outline 1. Who I am 2. Water Knowledge 3. Planning Opportunities 4. Values of Water 5. Cultural Flow 6. Gaps
My Mob Kamilaroi NationCulturally I am Lucky and Unlucky: Lucky - as I have a huge proud Murri family and have a good education; and Unlucky - as I have not grown up on Country and cannot speak my language Currently “Living the Dream” in Canberra
Water Knowledge• A question for all of you: • When you think of water knowledge in the Australian context, who/what and why do you think of them?
My Argument Aboriginal Water Knowledge = Survival• Aboriginal people are still here (climate change and all)• Aboriginal people’s ability to survive in and understand the Australian landscape is astounding this equates to: Generations of Traditional Knowledge• A precise classification system was developed for water sites Aboriginal people know how to find and re-find water in a dry landscape• BUT, Aboriginal people are still not part of the “western equation” in identifying how, when and where water flows in Australia
Aboriginal Water KnowledgeA hypothetical addition:D + TLC = 5000+/- D = The “Dreaming” TLC = Traditional Lore and Customs 5000+/-* generations of traditional ecological knowledge (TEK) and survival on the driest inhabited continent on earth *Based on 20years = 1 Generation (Wikipedia)With the current state of Country, who should protect and nurtureour country back to health - Aboriginal people, why? Deep seated understanding and long relationship Customary obligation Are happier and healthier (in spirit and wellbeing) when we have the same opportunities and standards of living as all Australians
Opportunities - National Water Initiative• Water Planning and Aboriginal People has not had a good history!• The National Water Initiative of 2004 for the first time explicitly recognised Indigenous rights and interests in national water policy • (paragraph 25(ix)):“recognise Indigenous needs in relation to water access and management” and • Paragraphs 52–54 - Indigenous Access• 2011 Biennial Assessment - Indigenous Specific Findings Finding 1.5 Most jurisdictions have improved consultations with Indigenous communities in water planning and management, but have generally failed to incorporate effective strategies for achieving Indigenous social, spiritual and customary objectives in water plans, as envisaged under the NWI.
Value of Water to Aboriginal People• Aboriginal peoples’ value to water is sacred, deep and necessary for survival.• It is protected by Lore, which provide a system of sustainable management ensuring healthy people• Aboriginal people’s connection with Country does not separate the individual features of the landscape• Non-Aboriginal laws and traditions tend to separate water from the land and from the sky
Value of Water to Aboriginal People• Aboriginal cultural and economic values associated with waters are poorly understood by water resource managers including the cultural economy (i.e. 1 echidna may equal 3 yellow bellies)• The poor understanding leads to poor allocations/entitlements• Aboriginal people are critical of water managers for the exclusive focus given to satisfying ecological criteria in environmental watering, and still not part of the water debate
Water Dependent Cultural ValuesThe water dependent cultural values will relate to the below culturalassets in the form of: • Creation sites; • Cultural hero stories linking with spiritual significance along a song line/dreaming tracks - non- tangible (“Dreaming Sites”); • Language (connects culture to place); • Resource sites for traditional bush foods and medicines; • Resource sites for artefacts, tools, art and crafts; • Gender specific sites – men’s and women’s business; • Ceremonial sites;• Burial places/sites;• Teaching sites;• Massacre sites where frontier battles occurred with traditional groups;• Tribal boundary indicators, landscape features, or stone arrangements;• Cultural specific environmental conditions to sustain totemic species; and• Sites that contain physical/tangible evidence of occupation middens, campsites, artefact scatters, scarred and carved trees, stone arrangements and fish traps
Word Break Ngemba Mission Billabong - Barwon RiverA lake on Ngunnawal Country
Cultural Flow• Aboriginal people rely heavily on rivers, groundwater and wetlands to access their values both tangible and non-tangible,• Many values require a flow, otherwise the story/connection is lost• Water Plans generally assume that environmental water or flows will meet cultural values, including Aboriginal social and economic values• The problem here is that Aboriginal people are rarely engaged to determine environmental flows• Other challenges include for Aboriginal water entitlements: Lack of data No clear definitions Lack of policy and guidance Lack of understanding
Cultural Flow• In a report to the NSW Healthy Rivers Commission by Behrendt and Thompson 2003 state that: Cultural flows should be an essential component of river management. A ‘cultural flow’ can be set and monitored as sufficient flow in a suitable pattern to ensure the maintenance of Aboriginal cultural practices and connections with the rivers• Murray Darling Basin Plan Guide Vol 1 (pg. 196, MDBA, 2010). Stating: “MLDRIN and NBAN define Cultural Flows as: Water entitlements that are legally and beneficially owned by the Aboriginal nations and are of a sufficient and adequate quantity and quality to improve the spiritual, cultural, environmental, social and economic conditions of those Aboriginal nations; this is our inherent right.
Cultural Flow• Definitions and needs for cultural water by Aboriginal people may differ at a local scale• A representative definition of a Cultural Flow is yet to be agreed upon by the 250+ Aboriginal Nations within Australia AIATSIS (2005)
Mind the Gap in Knowledge• No research is yet to quantify what is a cultural flow i.e. no credible evidence• No research has compared a cultural flow to an environmental flow• There is a severe lack of quantitative real data on Aboriginal water uses and values: So a need for further primary data collection or case specific investigations (Long Term)• There are substantial gaps in science of identifying Aboriginal water requirements – Culturally and Economically• Aboriginal people do not have the big reports or glossy maps, all their knowledge is obtained orally, in song, stories through TEK
CSIRO• CSIRO investing in Aboriginal water management through the Water for a Healthy Country Flagship: Work to date in Northern Australia CSIRO Indigenous Engagement Strategy CSIRO Indigenous Employment Strategy, aiming to increase Indigenous employment in CSIRO to 2.5% CSIRO three National Indigenous Roundtables Employment of Brad Moggridge A research project with the Ngemba Nation• CSIRO has a strong interest in developing long term research activity to address Aboriginal water requirements including co- investment and partnerships.
Wrap Up• Aboriginal people have a long and deep relationship with water but are not part of the water debate• Aboriginal people have opportunities to engage in water through the NWI and UN Declaration, but jurisdictions need to allow this to occur• Aboriginal people want to protect Country as their relationship with Country does not separate the individual features of the landscape such as water, land and sky• A growing body of interest in a Cultural Flow• There are considerable gaps in knowledge in understanding how water is used by Aboriginal people both economically and culturally and what benefits TEK can provide “Western Science”The Challenge• How are you going to fill these gaps?